Greenrock Responds To 2015 Throne Speech

November 14, 2015

Environmental group Greenrock has responded to the recent Throne Speech, saying there was “some disappointment” that it “wasn’t as ambitious, from a sustainability perspective, as it could have been, however there were certainly things in there that we can welcome.”

Greenrock Executive Director Jonathan Starling said, “Overall there’s some disappointment that the Throne Speech wasn’t as ambitious, from a sustainability perspective, as it could have been, however there were certainly things in there that we can welcome, and others were we see the potential for constructive conversations going forward.

“While not always seen as a sustainability issue, the focus on improving policies relating to mental health and disabilities is welcome, especially if this includes a focus on creating a more inclusive and accessible built environment and public transport infrastructure.

“This contributes to a more inclusive society, allowing all members of society to participate fully, which has benefits from a social, economic and public health perspective and – with the demographic changes we’ll see in terms of the senior population in the near future – is just good sense going forward.

“There’s the potential for Government to have built on our pilot Savings for Senior’s energy efficiency programme, in terms of applying ‘green’ solutions to the rising costs – and struggles – of seniors.

“This involved installing more energy efficient lighting and water heater timers in senior’s homes that were experiencing difficulties with electricity bills. It helped reduce costs for them, while reducing their energy [and thus pollution] footprint.

“While the Throne Speech does speak to modernising Residential Care Homes, it doesn’t explicitly address applying such green solutions in this way, and we think that’s a conversation worth having going forward.

“Essentially, if we can reduce money being spent on electricity bills, that puts more money in seniors pockets, or, in the case of residential nursing homes, more money that can be focused on ensuring our seniors have the enjoyable retirement and fulfilling lives they deserve.

“The focus on reducing the islands reliance on imported foods is certainly welcome, and we are looking forward to reviewing both the Crop Sector and Dairy Sector strategies referred to. One thing we’d be interested in is a move to some sort of organic certification process for Bermuda, as well as otherwise reducing the carbon footprint of foodstuffs – and local grown produce naturally has a reduced carbon footprint.

“Local agriculture plays a key role in terms of providing us with green space and for biodiversity, so we’d hope these strategies help strengthen that. In relation to our desire for some sort of organic certification for Bermudian agriculture, in reference to importation of new plant material, the question of genetically modified organisms is something that would need to be looked at.

“We note the commitment to school improvement plans as well. It’s not clear if that refers to the built environment of the schools or the institutional infrastructure, but we’d certainly like to ensure that schools increasingly incorporate things like renewable energy, energy management systems and smart design so that the Government can focus their spending on ensuring quality education for students rather than energy bills.

“We certainly welcome the awareness of the role that natural environments, ‘outdoor learning’, can have in benefitting schooling, and we think there’s the potential to ensure sustainability is incorporated within the curriculum. Our Eco-Schools program, which we run as part of the internationally recognised Foundation for Environmental Education, certainly seeks to do just that, and so there’s potential there.

“The commitment to ensure gender equality on Government boards and committees are welcome. When these boards and committees more closely represent the diversity in our community, be it in terms of gender or race, then these committees are more likely to make decisions that are sustainable, both in terms of greater buy-in and in terms of potentially considering a holistic approach to their responsibilities.

“The introduction of the Electricity Act 2015 is certainly welcome and something we were expecting based on the consultation over the summer. Until we see the Act itself however, we’ll reserve comment, other than to say we certainly share the sentiment of ensuring a more environmentally sustainable electricity service for Bermuda.

“Similarly, the regulation of fuels, with a focus on reducing Bermuda’s greenhouse gas emissions, is something we support. It would be ideal to have more clarity on what our goals in this area are – and for that we need to start measuring our current GHG emissions and set out statutory targets for their reduction. This is a conversation we’ll look forward to having going forward.

“The commitment to creating a solar power plant at the Finger of the airport, capable of producing about 20% of Bermuda’s daylight energy demand, is something we welcome. However, we note this has been mentioned in several Throne Speeches now. We’re hopeful this coming year will see something concrete there that really helps reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels.

“The Throne Speech makes reference to making amendments to the National Pension Scheme. There’s the potential there for a conversation on divesting public pensions away from fossil fuels and the arms industry, and we think that’s a conversation worth having.

“There’s been a movement growing in this area, a shift to green pensions; in fact, just in September lawmakers in California passed a bill requiring two of the state’s largest pension plans to divest their holding from thermal coal as part of a legislative push to address climate change.

“We’d certainly love to see pensions divested from fossil fuels in particular and invested instead in environmentally friendly investments. We recognise this is no mean feat though, but it’s certainly a conversation worth starting.

“The Throne Speech also makes a lot of reference to tourism initiatives. Bermuda hosted the 12th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development in April 2011, and it would be our hope that the concepts of sustainable tourism discussed then are central to any tourism initiatives going forward.

“With the proposed amendments to the Development and Planning Act 1974, there’s the scope also to strengthen the requirements for environmental impact assessments [EIA’s] as well as include sustainability impact assessments [SIAs].

“We look forward to reviewing the National Water Strategy. This was a commitment of the 2008 Sustainable Development Plan, and it complements the Water Explorer’s Programme that Greenrock delivers, with the support of HSBC Global, to teach water sustainability in the schools.

“The commitment to reduce the horticultural waste at the Marsh Folly facility opens up the tantalising possibility of moving ahead with the long-promised redevelopment of Marsh Folly/Pembroke Dump and creating a large open green-space area in the heart of one of the most densely populated parts of Bermuda.

“Not only would this provide a welcome environmental amenity to those living around it, but it also has the potential to contribute to the problems relating to flooding along the length of Pembroke Canal in the long-term.

“Naturally we are disappointed that there was no mention of a beverage container deposit bill, or a levy on disposable bags, especially as the evidence base clearly shows that both of these initiatives greatly improve recycling rates or reduce litter overall.

“The introduction of a levy on disposable bags, for example, has seen reductions of 70 and 80% in Wales and Scotland, respectively. And while there was mention of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, these were nowhere as prominent as the seriousness of these issues demand.”

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Comments (5)

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  1. Terry says:

    Let me ponder this.
    Starling sucking up.
    I smell bird poop.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      He sure has found himself a perch to sit on & make a noise.

  2. Walk in their shoes says:

    I don’t think there’s much surprise in the response from Greenrock. Maybe the part about gender equality in committees, that would tend to fall outside of Greenrock’s remit – maybe that’s the new Director’s views coming into play more than expected.

    But overall, they seem pretty positive about the Throne speech.

  3. paperboy says:

    It looks like Greenrock is back in the media solidly with Jonathan’s writing skills. He will keep Government and our politicians engaged on the issues – possibly giving Stuart Hayward a well earned rest.

    He is clearly knowledgeable and it will be a reflection of his community engagement skills when Greenrock Directors mirror the composition and diversity of our community.

  4. bluebird says:

    Uses all the same old words and a FEW people are very impressed and his suggestions are to spend money.
    Life is wonderfull when you are spending other peoples money,goes well with that other guy at BEST.
    Neither one can suggest anyway to improve our ecconomy (stupid)