Some of the responsibility for helping Cayman prepare for the impacts of climate change falls to the UK. Governor Martyn Roper answered questions from the Cayman Compass about what his office is doing to help.
Compass: The Office of the Governor and the Office of the Premier recently met to discuss climate change. What were some key takeaways from this discussion? How can these offices work together to tackle climate concerns?
Governor Roper: In November of 2020, the UK will be hosting the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, Scotland, where the world will meet to agree on more ambitious action. The international community must step up to protect the environment we all live in. Many people believe we are at a dangerous tipping point without significant action.
This is an opportunity to make a truly global effort. COP26 will be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted, bringing together over 30,000 delegates. There, we need countries, cities, states and businesses to move onto a credible path to reach net zero globally in the coming decades.
My office and the Premier’s Office recognise the importance of working together on this issue and are keen for action to be taken. Climate change will be on the agenda for the Joint Ministerial Council at the end of March attended by UK Ministers and OT premiers in London.
We have agreed that a paper on climate change will be presented to the National Security Council (NSC) in the coming weeks for a stock take of our response to climate change and on what technical assistance the UK, as a global leader on responding to climate change, might provide to Cayman.
How urgent is the issue of climate change for a low-lying island territory like the Cayman Islands?
2020 is a critical year for our planet. The science is clear. Climate change is real and it is threatening our future. Five years ago in Paris, world leaders committed to an historic agreement to tackle climate change. They agreed to keep global mean temperature rises well below 2°C and to strive to limit the rise to 1.5°C. Climate-related risk for low-lying islands includes, but is not limited to, sea level rise, damage to our ecosystems, stronger hurricanes, flooding and changing rainfall patterns. As a low-lying island, we are especially vulnerable and need to address mitigation and adaptation now and in the long term. Despite their small size, it is important that the Overseas Territories play a role in supporting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as take action to build our resilience through appropriate adaptation actions. Many populations, including our youth, want to see more action.
What are some considerations that should be taken into account to prepare Cayman for the effects of climate change?
This is an area of devolved responsibility. It is important that Cayman considers the actions that can be taken now, given the urgency and increasing risks of climate change. Climate action is most effective if based on the best available science, with strategies continually updated in light of the latest evidence. Climate change mitigation and adaptation need to be integrated more systematically across all areas of policy including building, construction, planning and development.
Many Caribbean states are now discussing how to build ‘climate resilience’ into their infrastructure and planning models. What would that look like here in Cayman?
This is a devolved matter but stimulating greater action on building resilience is central to COP26. Action will need to be well informed, coordinated and sustained, and national plans should enable engagement from the local to the national level.
Are there any immediate steps that can be taken to move Cayman closer to its climate goals?
On Jan. 31, 2020, the Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a Private Members Motion calling for the government to take “immediate steps to create and move forward with a climate change strategy” including convening a working group of public and private sector representatives to create a climate change policy, among other responsibilities.
I support government’s efforts to engage with business and civil society and create a positive atmosphere to focus on some of the more challenging areas. The recent steps forward on banning single use plastics are a good example of what can be achieved. The cost of renewables and other low carbon technology has fallen far more than anticipated, which means we can be more ambitious with our solutions. We need to set incentives to move to a lower carbon economy and ensure we meet the targets in the National Energy Policy.
What role does the UK play is helping the overseas territories plan for and recover from the effects of climate change?
The UK Government is ready to support the overseas territories with building their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Ministers and premiers will be discussing technical assistance and support at the Joint Ministerial Council in London in March.
At COP26, the conference will focus on helping communities prepare better for climate impacts, protecting and restoring natural habitats and ecosystems on an unprecedented scale, embracing the large opportunities of renewable energy and speeding up the phase-out of petrol and diesel engine vehicles from the roads over the next generation.