Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS HONOURABLE KYE M. RYMER AT THE SECOND SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FIFTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON THE NATIONAL METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES
Thursday 29th June 2023
Madam Speaker, the Ministry of Communications and Works is responsible for meteorology. The efficient and timely movement of meteorological information is a fundamental requirement of modern meteorology, and it provides information about weather conditions that can affect life and safety. Earlier this week, my team and I, along with our relevant agencies (Airport Authority and Department of Disaster Management), met with Dr. Arlene Laing, Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO), and her team to initiate discussions on implementing a National Meteorological Service here in the territory.
The Antigua National Meteorological Service currently provides meteorological services to the Virgin Islands. However, the National Sustainable Development Plan, Vision 2036: Building a Sustainable Virgin Islands, highlights concerns with severe or extreme weather events, climate, and climate change that warrant action to mitigate these effects on the islands. Therefore, the Ministry of Communications and Works is developing a National Meteorological Office to provide efficient and timely movement of meteorological information, which is necessary to provide forecasted data about weather conditions that can affect safety and improve sustainability.
Climate change impacts, such as changing wind patterns, clear air turbulence, increased sector times, and routing modifications, can affect air transport operations. The Virgin Islands Climate Vulnerability and Risk Assessment Report estimates that climate change could impact the coastal and marine sectors of the Virgin Islands. Also, the Virgin Islands Climate Change Adaptation Policy recognises the impacts of climate change on various sectors, including the aviation industry, and emphasises the need for adaptation measures to reduce risks and build resilience. Severe or extreme weather events, climate variability, and projected climate scenarios can affect the aviation industry's safety, efficiency, and profitability in the Virgin Islands. Therefore, developing a National Meteorological Service through a dedicated office is crucial to efficiently and effectively achieving several of the National Sustainable Development Plan's national outcomes.
The Virgin Islands' economy relies on tourism, fishing, the marine environment, agriculture, aviation, and other services, which are all affected by the territory's weather and climate conditions. The region is vulnerable to coastal and marine hazards, and extreme weather events and climate variability have historically impacted sustainable development. Recent events like floods and hurricanes demonstrate the need to invest in local weather forecasting capabilities to reduce disaster risks.
The National Sustainable Development Plan emphasises "building a stronger, more resilient BVI by looking for new ways to improve the safety and resilience of communities throughout the BVI with disaster resilience built through collaborative approaches that are coordinated, locally-led, and supported with government resources." A National Meteorological Service, through a dedicated office, is crucial to efficiently and effective achievement several of the plan's national outcomes, such as those directly linked to weather, climate, and water. These include but are not limited to;
• Hazard risk reduction and sustainable adaptation to climate change;
• Sustainable Energy and Water;
• Sustainable management and use of environmental and natural resources;
• Developing the Blue Economy; and
• Peace, Justice for all, Safety, and Security.
Madam Speaker, according to the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, the Government is responsible for protecting the right to life for each citizen, as enshrined in Chapter 2, Article 11—(1) "Every person has a right to life which shall be protected by law." This is aligned with the functions of meteorological services, such as early warning to prevent loss of life. National Meteorological Services are vital institutions for ensuring the safety and well-being of the people. As noted in the preamble to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Convention, "Reaffirming the vital importance of the mission of the National Meteorological, Hydro-meteorological and Hydrological Services in observing and understanding weather and climate and in providing meteorological, hydrological and related services in support of relevant national needs, which should include the following areas:
(a) Protection of life and property;
(b) Safeguarding the environment;
(c) Contributing to sustainable development;
(d) Promoting long-term observation and collection of meteorological, hydrological, and climatological data, including related environmental data;
(e) Promotion of endogenous capacity-building;
(f) Meeting international commitments; and
(g) Contributing to international cooperation
An Office of National Meteorological Services in the Virgin Islands would improve weather observations and forecasting, provide data for infrastructure planning, and issue warnings and alerts for hydro-meteorological hazards. It would also maintain a historical record and provide relevant advice on national weather, climate, water, and environmental data issues for decision-making by the public and private sectors.
The CMO assists Member States in upgrading their national meteorological services and will support us in developing our National Meteorological Service. They have developed Model Legislation and Policy to strengthen the legal foundation of the services. Additionally, almost all the meteorological personnel of relevant Government and Statutory agencies have already received professional training at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados.
Madam Speaker, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Agreement for establishing the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO), signed in October 1973. The CMO is a Specialized Institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Madam Speaker in conclusion, developing a National Meteorological Service through a dedicated office is a significant step towards addressing concerns related to severe weather events, climate, and climate change in the territory. With the support of organizations like the CMO and the WMO, we can work towards building a resilient and sustainable future for the citizens of these Virgin Islands.