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British territories discuss environmental challenges

British territories around the world met last week to discuss environmental challenges including climate change, biodiversity and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit on funding for green initiatives.

The virtual meeting of the UK Overseas Territories’ and Crown Dependencies’ Environmental Ministers’ Council was chaired by Dr John Cortes, Gibraltar’s Environment Minister.

The Council, which first met in Gibraltar in 2015, is made up of ministers or their equivalents from all the inhabited Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

This latest meeting was held over two days with representatives taking part from 14 of the 17 territories, supported by officials.

Also represented was the UK Overseas Territories’ Association (UKOTA), which includes the UK representatives of Overseas Territories governments, and the UK Overseas Territories’ Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), which provides the Secretariat for the Council and organised the meeting.

Climate change was one of the main topics, with territories discussing their targets and the challenges they face in striving towards carbon neutrality, as well as sharing ideas and experience in dealing with severe weather events and sea level rise, to which many of the territories are particularly prone.

Representation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) due to be held in Glasgow this year was also discussed.

Work on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the territories - which hold about 90% of the total biodiversity on British territory - also featured at the meeting, with nature-based solutions for dealing with climate change and re-wilding being some aspects discussed in this context.

Also on the agenda was a review of the impact of Brexit on the territories and a discussion on funding for the environment, including on how governments can ensure that the environment remains a top priority in territories hit by the economic impacts of Covid-19.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was a letter of solidarity and support to the people and Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a country which has recently suffered a major volcanic eruption with consequences similar to those suffered in the past by Montserrat.

“It was an honour to have chaired this very well-attended meeting,” Dr Cortes said.

“Once again it proved extremely valuable to exchange ideas and experiences with my counterparts from around the world, and so to be able co-ordinate the work we all do on the environment.”

“By discussing challenges and solutions we can all move forward better.”

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