Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush is calling for several changes in the way the Cayman Islands approaches the environment.
‘The conference was very, very good,’ he said. ‘It had a profound effect on me.’
He attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference on Climate Change in London.
Mr. Bush said Cayman had to act soon to help mitigate against potential environmental problems.
‘We must attach an even greater priority in the protection of our coastal zones and oceans against the ill-effects of land-based sources of pollution,’ he said. ‘The delay in more health environmental practices will no doubt result in permanent and irreversible damage to our marine resources, our coastal access, our air and water management, and more importantly, our main industry – tourism.’
Mr. Bush called for the establishment of an Expert Working Group comprising of government and private sector officials to ‘formulate viable solutions for reducing the Cayman Islands’ vulnerability to climate change and its susceptibility to natural disasters’.
‘It has been said that climate change is the most serious problem we face in the 21st century,’ Mr. Bush stated. ‘It is expected for a 2.5 degree rise in ocean temperature. It is also said a one-degree rise will seriously affect our reefs.’
Mr. Bush also warned that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20 per cent, according to the Stern Review, a report commissioned by the U.K.
‘The Cayman Islands is not immune from global warming, which is happening as a result of climate change,’ he said.
‘Clearly it is essential that we rapidly advance an effective environmental policy that mitigates against global warming while facilitating safe, environmentally conscious projects necessary for the growth and development of the Cayman Islands. This must also include control of emission from personal and industrial usage.’
Mr. Bush spoke about the path of future development.
‘The whole issue is going to be how we can balance development and the environment in the future.’
Mr. Bush said Caymanians need to be fully educated about the need to be environmentally sensitive. He also said citizens and residents needed to work collaboratively in promoting good environmental practices.
‘I recommend that the government ensure that climate change is an integral part of the education curriculum.’
For his part, Mr. Bush said he intended to introduce an environmental award for all schools – public and private – throughout the islands as an incentive to educate and involve children to be more environmentally sensitive and to become ‘true caretakers of our environment’.
Mr. Bush said schools could create energy monitors from students who are age seven and older in primary school. These children could do things such as shutting off lights, shutting off water and closing windows.
‘I don’t want people to say we want our children to do things we’re not prepared to do ourselves,’ he said. ‘But the fact is our children can lead us through the implantation of such programmes.’
Mr. Bush called on the government to adopt UNESCO’s Sand Watch Project, which is an environmental tool for school children. A representative from UNESCO made a presentation at the climate change conference that impressed Mr. Bush.
‘They’re already using it in Turks [and Caicos], B.V.I and the Bahamas,’ he said. ‘So we’re behind in that way.’