My fellow Dominicans
I am both honoured and humbled by the opportunity that has been afforded to me to address the nation on the occasion of the international observance of the 40th anniversary of World Environment Day.
Today, Dominica joins the rest of the world in celebrating an annual event that is aimed at being the most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action.
The celebration of a "World Environment Day" was established by the United Nations General Assembly to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in June 1972.
That day also saw the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This day is observed each year on June 5th, and is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations and its member countries stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action. It is a celebration of the inspirational power of individual actions that collectively become an exponential force for positive change.........One, where people from all walks of life come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.
The theme for this year's commemoration is “GREEN ECONOMY: DOES IT INCLUDE YOU?” and it accentuates the fact that each and every one of us should play an important role in the quest of the transformation towards a Green Economy.
My fellow Dominicans, we are living in challenging times. Times when the world is experiencing a financial crisis like never before. Coupled with this, we are experiencing volatile oil prices, accelerating ecosystem degradation and an increasing number and intensity of climate-induced extreme weather events. These multiple and inter-related crises are challenging the ability of mankind and an ever increasing human population to live peacefully and sustainably on this planet.
In this significant year for the environment and sustainable development, the world leaders will once again meet at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development twenty years after the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1992.
Dubbed Rio + 20, one of the main themes of this Summit is “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”.
Rio+ 20 provides a platform on which global matters with regards to sustainable development can be discussed and at the same time secure the consent of the highest political leadership.
My fellow Domincans, in view of the challenges facing us, and the importance and prominence that environmental issues and sustainable development have taken in recent years, after the 2009 General Elections, your government saw it fit to create this new Ministry and its related portfolios with the aim of concentrating our efforts at the national level....and its efforts, to date have been impressive.
In an effort to internalize the UN call for the Green Economy, the Government of Dominica through the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries has developed a Dominica Low-Carbon Climate Resilient Development Strategy. This strategy, which seeks to integrate a number of our national developmental goals into a sustainable developmental pathway, will be the focus of our discussions when Dominica attends the Rio +20 Summit later this month.
And I'm pleased to announce that this strategy, has been approved and endorsed by the Climate Investment Fund and we are on the verge of tapping into much-needed funds towards our national efforts in climate change.
The phenomenon of climate change has been well documented by the United Nations and other institutions over the past decade. The Commonwealth of Dominica and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can speak of our experiences with the increasing intensity of hurricanes, droughts, floods, destruction to coastal areas and sea-level rise.These have had severe impacts on our agriculture, tourism, water, physical and coastal infrastructures. This has led to an increasingly high cost for adaptation, resulting in the diversion of funds which otherwise would have been used for social and economic development. Climate change therefore, has become a major threat to the ability of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
For almost two decades the United Nations has recognized the special economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States.
Despite our many challenges, however, Dominica, continues to demonstrate strong leadership in the area of climate change at the domestic, regional and international levels..... and significant progress has been made in the areas of the protection of biodiversity, preservation of our rain forest, and strategies for promoting renewable energy. These efforts need to be complemented both by the United Nations system as well as by other Member States especially the developed countries.
It is regrettable however, that to date, no consensus has been reached on the best way to deal with what we consider a clear and present danger to our planet.
Other significant works being undertaken by the government would be our National Land Use Plan and Policy, which would seek to rationalize the use of our lands here in the Nature Isle.
We are also in the process of modernizing, harmonizing and strengthening our environmnental legislation in an effort to ensure that the natural resources we now enjoy will still be here for coming generations to enjoy.
A brand new Quarrying Act is now in the final stages of preparation..... and this is again to ensure that land-based activities such as quarrying are regularized and therefore reduce the impact both on our terrestial and marine environment.
New Fisheries regulations are also in the pipeline to ensure our national food security and of course the livelihood of the future generations of fisherfolk.
My fellow Dominicans, The United Nations Environment Programme defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It touches critical aspect of our lives and concerns our national development.
It is about sustainable energy, green jobs, low carbon economies, climate resilient strategies, food security (agriculture, fisheries), sustainable tourism, waste management, energy efficiency, and resource efficiency.
While the United Nations has decided only now to introduce the Green Economy as a way to obtain sustainable development, Dominica has always maintained a Green Economy. Our Green Globe Certified Eco-Tourism, our protected agriculture, hydro-electricity, our wildlife management, all demonstrate that we have been early champions of the Green Economy.
At the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002, our late Prime Minister Honourable Pierre Charles of Blessed Memory said:
“The government of Dominica has determined that greater energy security is one of our most important national objectives and that dependence on foreign energy resources cannot be our long term interest.
Given our country’s energy resource endorsement, we have come to the realization that the only future for Dominica in the energy arena is development of our renewable energy resources.”
The Government of Dominica is presently realizing the dream of the late Prime Minister by pursuing geothermal energy development which we hope will bring fruitful results and propel us into that much talked about "next level".
Activities scheduled to observe World Environment Day 2012 include a collaborative effort with the Ministries of Environment, Forestry, Youth and Education around the theme of Green Economy – Does it include you?
It is hoped that this activity will enhance the awareness of the youth and students among us to contribute towards the Sustainable Development of our homeland.
As the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”, we must ensure that we continue to preserve the integrity of our environment.
This is a call for every citizen of Dominica to become aware of the role we each must play to ensure successful implementation of Sustainable Development for Dominica.
Let us consider carefully the activities which we must take and recommit ourselves to the common task of preserving all life, and the resources on which they depend, in a mood of sober resolution and quiet confidence.
My fellow Dominicans, the effects of Climate Change are already affecting us. In fact, just last year, we bore witness to three severe weather events, resulting in damage to infrastructure and property estimated in the several million of dollars. What this means, my dear friends is that, monies that were earmarked for new developments, now had to be redirected towards relief efforts, resulting in a stalling of our developmental goals.
And even as we enter the official hurricane season, let us all hope and pray that the weather events of this year will be less severe or absent on the Nature Island of the Caribbean.
I wish you all a good World Environment Day 2012.
May God Bless the Commonwealth of Dominica
I Thank you