OCT conference in Greenland – Voges stresses importance of economic diversification

POSTED: 09/27/12 12:06 PM

St. Maarten – Delegates representing St. Maarten are currently in Ililussat, Greenland attending the Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union (OCTA) conference discussing various instances regarding the country’s interests specifically centered on the environment and green growth. The delegation is headed by the Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges and is focused on St. Maarten’s participation in the OCT forum and the island’s advances on the environment. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams was unable to travel to Greenland due to prior commitments.

Participants at the forum include Dutch, French, Danish and British Overseas Territories of the European Union who gathered in the small town of Ililussat above the Arctic Circle to raise matters that are of concern to the countries and territories. Environmental factors influencing growth are one of the foremost concerns of the OCT members and significant time was spent discussing ways in which the European Union can assist in financing solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The minister of plenipotentiary stated that the main pillar of the St. Maarten economy is tourism and that in vulnerable times the importance of diversifying one’s economy becomes more and more evident.

“It is important for St. Maarten to diversify its economy to ensure future sustainable growth. A green and sustainable economy can only be achieved when all the country’s resources are tapped into efficiently whilst at the same time preserving the environment. Our tourism industry relies heavily on clean beaches and healthy water, reinforcing the need to protect the environment. We are now faced with the task of restoring damage to our ecosystem and not contributing to any further such damage to ensure that the needs of future generations will be met. Several NGOs on St. Maarten, in particular the Nature Foundation, are currently working hard to preserve and advise on the sustainable management of the environment,” Voges said.

The minister of plenipotentiary also reiterated that St. Maarten is currently looking into investing in green technologies, such as wind turbines and solar power to generate clean energy for both the local population and the tourism industry.

The minister also discussed the establishment of the St. Maarten aquaponic farm in 2013 consistent with the diversification of the economic activities in the country.

“This farm will showcase the new technological possibilities of agricultural endeavors, providing means for cheap and healthy food, and provide yet another opportunity to educate youngsters on how to start and maintain a business. The aquaponic farm will grow and sell local vegetables, tilapia and eventually shrimp while at the same time train students in business administration, management and agricultural production. Simultaneously, the general public will be shown that St. Maarten can be more than just a tourism attraction,” the Minister said.

Delegates to the conference were also shown firsthand the effects of global warming when they were taken to the Ililussat Glacier, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. There was clear evidence of the melting of the Greenland Icecap with breaks and fissures being visible. The trip to the glacier brought the issues of climate change and environmental degradation into reality for delegation members.

The OCT conference centered on the theme “How Cool is Green” ends today. The European Union paid the trip for the delegation from St. Maarten.

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