Assistant Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations
Premier and Minister of Finance, Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley has pledged his support to the members of the re-established Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund Board.
The board serves as a vehicle to mobilise, manage and strategically disburse large-scale international financing to support the implementation of local projects, programmes, research and education initiatives and to respond to the issue of climate change.
Premier Wheatley said, “When I met with the environment team a few weeks ago, I indicated to them that the environment and climate change will be high on the Government’s agenda under my leadership. I assure you that you will have this Government’s full support and respect as you fulfil your mandate on the board.”
The Premier further reminded members of the important role they play which will shape the Territory’s climate change adaptation story.
He said, “As members of the board, you have an important charge and you will lead the Trust Fund through the critical stage of its operation – moving the Trust Fund from an institution conceived in law to a functional entity ready and able to deliver for the people of The Virgin Islands.”
The Premier also highlighted the level of commitment the Members of the Board have exhibited thus far, and stated that the Virgin Islands is fortunate to have such a committed group at the helm which is not only extremely passionate about the future of the Territory in the face of climate change, but possesses varied and expert skillsets to manage the Trust Fund.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary Mr. Ronald Smith-Berkeley, stated that while the Territory’s carbon footprint is negligible when compared to other jurisdictions across the globe, small island nations and territories are caught in a cruel paradox as they are collectively responsible for less than one percent of the global carbon emissions, but will suffer the greatest effects.
Mr. Smith-Berkeley said, “According to NASA, earth’s current warming is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years. According to the Panel on Climate Change, since the 1970s the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact”.
Chairman of the board, Mr. Edward Childs indicated that the priority task will be securing the committed seed funding to support establishment of a secretariat, enable international fund-raising efforts and ultimately launch the Trust Fund’s first public call for proposals for projects to be funded.
The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund will be able to finance a wide variety of local projects and programmes such as environmental restoration projects to help restore critical natural ecosystems, projects to diversity and green the tourism industry, projects to help the agricultural sector adapt to more severe drought and heat stress for livestock, resilient infrastructure projects, and renewable energy projects.
The board will be advertising for members to represent an academic or research organisation and the financial services sector. These roles were previously held by Dr Katherine Smith and Ms Shelly Bend, respectively, who were unable to continue serving at this time and who were recognised for their service during the ceremony to re-appoint members.
Members of The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund include Financial Secretary and Ex-Officio Member - Mr. Jeremiah Frett; Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change and Ex-Officio
Member - Mr. Ronald Smith-Berkeley; Chairman - Mr. Edward Childs; Deputy Chairman Mr. John Klein; Member representing a non-governmental organisation or community-based organisation - Dr. Shannon Gore; and Member representing a resident in the Territory who possesses relevant knowledge, expertise or experience - Mr. Ronnie Lettsome.
The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund was legally established in 2015 with the passage of The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund Act.