Answering Climate Change

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We are all aware that small island nations will bear the brunt of a changing climate. At the very least, rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification threatens a big part of our tourism product in the form of coral bleaching and reef degradation.

Equally worrying is the prospect of more Category 3 and above hurricanes with all of their accompanying impacts. It is then critical that we identify and implement appropriate adaptation measures across all sectors of our economy. A glance at the Green Paper on the climate change issues facing the Cayman Islands confirms this need for a comprehensive and collaborative approach. This Green Paper - which I hope you all had a chance to look at - follows on from the Issues Paper produced after last year’s consultation.

And to borrow from its foreword, “it presents us with the most comprehensive reference document to date on the potential implications of climate change for the Cayman Islands’ economic, social and environmental sectors.” More importantly though, it gives us an idea of how we can work together to lessen the local impact of this global issue. I believe many people shy away from discussing climate change because as an issue it is just too big to grasp.

This Green Paper however highlights possible solutions that are within our reach. It also identifies how we can adjust other policies and legislation to accommodate climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Finally, it shows how our combined, pro-active actions can cost-effectively achieve national adaptation and mitigation goals. I therefore commend the Department of Environment for once again bringing everyone to the table so we can pool our knowledge, experience and resources to find positive solutions to our unique adaptation and mitigation challenges. Last year you listed beach erosion, reef and fish decline, and rising energy, food and water costs as the foremost impacts that need attention. None of us living here can claim that we will be able to escape any of these impacts, and so I hope that the final climate change strategies will include practical targets for the entire population.

Some might say the jury is still out on the causes of climate change, but as US President Barack Obama said in his climate change speech to the UN last year: “Climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it - boldly, swiftly, and together - we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.” Indeed, the race is on and the work you are about to embark on over the next two days will set the foundation for how the Cayman Islands answers this challenge.

With the 3-year ECACC Project soon drawing to a close, the next two days are a very important step forward in the process of establishing a National Climate Change Policy for the Cayman Islands. I therefore thank everyone for investing the time in this endeavour and I wish you all a very productive workshop.

Thank you.

(Remarks from Minister of Environment, The Hon. Mark Scotland, JP at the Third In-country Mission for ECCAC Project, National Climate Change Workshop, Grand Cayman, Thursday, 3 December 2010)

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