Bailiwick islands among seven to sign environment charter

MINISTERS from seven islands ranging from Guernsey to Monserrat signed up to a charter in Alderney this weekend pledging to protect and improve their territory’s natural environment.

The signing of the charter. Left to right: John Young (Jersey), Claude Hogan (Montserrat), Billy Tate (Alderney), Stephanie Martin (Tristan da Cunha), Barry Brehaut (Guernsey) and Liesl Mesilio (Gibraltar). (Picture by Gregory Guida)
The signing of the charter. Left to right: John Young (Jersey), Claude Hogan (Montserrat), Billy Tate (Alderney), Stephanie Martin (Tristan da Cunha), Barry Brehaut (Guernsey) and Liesl Mesilio (Gibraltar). (Picture by Gregory Guida)

Around 100 delegates from British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies travelled to the island for three days of talks and seminars on wildlife projects and challenges at the annual inter-islands environmental meeting.

Hosted by Alderney Wildlife Trust, this year’s theme was wilder islands, and guests staging presentations included renowned entimologist Professor George McGavin and Tony Juniper CBE, chairman of Natural England.

Professor McGavin talked about the degradation of insect habitats world wide from deforestation, pesticides, climate change and population growth.

Mr Juniper explained why the biodiversity of islands was so uniquely rich, and chronicled the changes that had been wrought on them over the centuries from exploitation and invasive species.

The climax of the event was a summit on how the islands could work together to protect, restore and improve their flora, fauna and marine wildlife and habitats and make their territories wilder.

Representatives from Alderney, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Monserrat, Sark and Tristan da Cunha were the first to sign a Blue Islands charter. Places like Anguilla, St Helena, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda are expected to follow suit.

The 10-point agreement includes pledges to ‘control and reduce the negative impacts of the island’s activities on the environment; to contribute to the development of scientific knowledge with regard to island marine environments and to move towards a complete ban on single use plastics’.

Dr Liesel Mesilio Torres, CEO of Gibraltar’s Department of Environment and Climate Change, said island populations were uniquely adapted to rising to new challenges.

In June, Gibraltar began to enforce a ban on the import and export of commercial quantities of single use plastic after the government sat down for talks with supermarkets like Waitrose and Morrisons.

She said the charter acknowledged the diverse ability of the various islands to tackle environmental challenges but added that collaboratively they could effect change.

Environment minister for Monserrat, Claude Hogan, told how even with the devastation inflicted by natural disasters, incentivising the purchase of electric vehicles with a zero tax scheme had been greeted enthusiastically by residents.

‘We had to strike the right balance when drafting the charter because the islands are diverse in their ability to do these things,’ said Ms Mesilio Torres. ‘There are ambitions and aspirations. But islands get things done. As islands when we come across a problem, we get up and deal with it. It just takes one or two individuals with passion. There’s innovation on islands. People might think, how can you change things globally when you’re just a small island, but I believe we can lead the way and make change happen.’

Claire Thorpe, head of people and outreach at AWT, said much useful information had been disseminated at the event.

‘The logistics of getting people to the meeting was challenging when bad weather struck, but everyone got here in the end and we would like to thank everyone who came and who made the event possible. We hope that it helps bring environmental benefits to islands locally and further afield.’

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