Overseas Territories Marine report launch

Minister for Environment and Climate Change John Cortes yesterday attended the virtual launch of the UK Overseas Territories’ Marine Report Cards, an initiative of the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP). There were close on 90 participants.

The Report Cards, which can be accessed online at https://www.mccip.org.uk contain information on the threats posed to marine areas around the Overseas Territories, in particular in connection with the challenge of Climate Change.

They have been the work of scientists and officials in the UK and the Territories. In Gibraltar the work was coordinated by Awantha Dissanyake, Head of the Marine Science School at the University of Gibraltar, with involvement also of Stephen Warr and others at the Department of the Environment and Climate Change.

The launch saw presentations from spokespersons from all the regions where OTs are located, the Mediterranean, the Polar regions, Pacific, Carribean, Indian Ocean and South Atlantic. The work done and a large amount of resource material was presented, all of which will be accessible to decision makers and scientists alike.

The event was officially opened by UK Minister of State for the Pacific and Environment Pacific Lord Goldsmith and was formally closed by Minister Cortes, whose closing words are reproduced below:

“It’s a real pleasure to be here on behalf of the Council of Environment Ministers of the Overseas Territories and to see the really worthwhile work that has been done by so many players around the globe.

Before I say my closing words, a word of course, like I often do, in support of terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity which we mustn’t forget are also under tremendous pressure form climate change.

I am impressed at the increased overall awareness of the importance of the OTs – and of the seas in particular in recent years, and an impressive increase in interest and support including from HMG. True to say, OT Governments and NGOs who work there have laboured incessantly over the past two decades to achieve this.

The importance of the oceans to islands – or near-islands – is reflected in our way of life, our dependence on the sea for our people, for enriching our cultures, or for recreation, commerce, as marine bridges to other shores, and for our economies – be it through fishing or tourism or trade.

The purpose of the Blue Islands Charter, first signed in Alderney, all the more relevant after today’s event, and which will be given new impetus as we move out of the effects of the pandemic, is to recognise this and to commit us all.

This work showcased today will continue to raise the profile of the OTs and the impacts of climate change on our coasts and oceans – vulnerable as we are to the effect of climate change as communities of people too.

It is good to see the engagement of the OTs themselves in agreeing the priorities – absolutely vital environmentally, socially, politically and constitutionally, if real progress is to be made.

Some Territories are already working on building resilience to mitigate these impacts, but others might need support, and we must carefully look at how these territories can be supported to address the priorities identified. Support can come from HMG, significantly from other Territories who can share experience, or even from the large NGOs and academic institutions

Ultimately it is up to the Territories to decide what support they want and accept, but they must know that the offer and opportunities are there.

It’s vitally important that this initiative - for which we as Territories must thank every contributor – does not stop now, that the network continues and expands to include other government agencies, academic institutions and serious NGOs and that the information gathered is used, and the challenges identified are taken up in order to improve the state of our seas.

This must apply to all of our waters – around populated or unpopulated territories and must serve as an inspiration to other island communities and states, beyond the OTs, showing that working collectively we can and will make a difference.

From my experience, it is perfectly possible to combine climate change adaptation with protection and enhancement of biodiversity and with commercial and economic interests. With the will, with a deep, home nurtured understanding of the issues, success is achievable.

Today’s event, the work that has gone into it, and the outcome, prove that this is so”.