The Virgin Islands is said to be well ahead of most small-island developing states on the issue of climate change adaptation and in the coming months could have in place the framework to access millions to mitigate against the effects of those changes.
Some $50 million will be needed annually to cushion the effects of climate change which experts said has already started to manifest through sea level rise, unpredictable weather patterns and more intense hurricanes.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering is leading the charge to ensure that residents are sensitized on the issue of climate change.
During the launch of the public awareness campaign yesterday, May 6, Dr. Pickering indicated that the Territory is currently setting up the climate change trust fund as the vehicle to access a portion of the billions the developed countries have set aside to help at-risk states.
However, the proposed legislative framework to establish the fund has to first get approval from Cabinet before it’s taken to the House of assembly for debate and subsequent passage.
Consultant, Mr. George de Berdt Romily, Climate Change Law and Policy Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre noted that delaying the implementation of climate change adaptation plans will be more costly.
“We recognize that it is totally unrealistic to expect that the Virgin Islands can raise this additional $50 million from existing resources. There is a need to try and find how best we can raise these resources,” Mr. Romily stated.
He further explained, “There is also a commitment from the international community to finance the incremental cost associated with climate change. We do anticipate that once the trust fund is up and running, there will be contributions from international community to pay for the incremental costs. We hope to come close to the $50 million that is needed.”
He said the ability of the Virgin Islands to have continued access to international funds will depend on the Territory’s ability to operate the trust fund in a transparent manner and ensure the viability of the projects on the ground.
In May 2012, Cabinet approved the Virgin Islands Climate Change Adaptation Policy, but the funding is necessary to implement a number of the urgent priority climate change and disaster management programs.
Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre has also been assisting the Territory in implement mitigation plans.