Address by Premier Wheatley on World Environment Day 2024







Greetings to all who call The Virgin Islands home. We are small islands dependent on nature-based tourism and vulnerable to the ravages of climate change. Just last week, Small Island Developing States from around the world met in Antigua and Barbuda to discuss a Programme of Action for the next decade to secure our collective future and prosperity.

I return from that gathering with strong affirmation that the state of our environment is the single most important indicator of our development prospects and predictor of our success or failure as a Territory. We depend on our environment to keep the tourism dollar flowing through our economy, to feed us, protect our coastlines, slow and absorb flood waters and, most importantly, to keep our island home a paradise worth living in! The environment is to our economy and lifestyle what the flour is to the prized cake – the core ingredient!

Today, June 5, we join the world in celebrating World Environment Day, at a time when our environment, both locally and globally, is in crisis. The theme this year – “Our Land. Our Future. We are #GenerationRestoration” – reflects this reality and charges this generation with the mandate to restore our environment.

Embracing the clarion call to be GenerationRestoration, today it gives me great pleasure to launch the Environment Month Green Pledge Drive and announce the Public Sector Green Pledge. The Green Pledge Drive seeks to scale up “greening” in The Virgin Islands under the Green Pledge Programme launched in June 2012.

Greening is about all reducing our environmental impact and increasing our environmental stewardship. This is the collective responsibility of Government, every business, every organization, every community and every individual so that we can pass on this cherished land in an equal or better condition to the next generation. This is the essence of sustainability.

There are many ways to “Go Green”. We can reduce our energy and water use, be responsible consumers to reduce our waste production, improve our waste management, ensure that our development is environmentally friendly, get involved in environmental protection and restoration projects, support environmental education and be advocates for the environment.

There is a strong economic, health and resiliency case for greening The Virgin Islands. At the Territory-level, for instance, we can significantly reduce the $50 million a year spent on fossil fuel imports and the several million dollars literally leaked out in unaccounted-for-water annually. We can reinvest these savings into urgently needed infrastructure projects and social protection programmes to improve everyday life and ensure we can better weather the next heavy rain event or hurricane.

Businesses, organizations and individuals can benefit from direct cost savings, heathier work places and homes, a cleaner overall environment, and an improved image. In addition to the inherent rewards of going green, Government will be showcasing Green Pledgers, starting with the award of the Green Pledge Seal, and will be extending other perks and privileges over time.

More than 50 businesses and organizations signed up for the Green Pledge in 2012. Since then, Green VI has partnered with the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change to advance the Green Pledge programme. This Environment Month, why don’t we turn 50 Pledges into 500! Making a Green Pledge is easy! Simply complete the registration form available at, indicating your Pledge and Action Plan by the end of Environment Month – June 30, 2024.

I’m proud to announce that the Government is leading the way with the Public Service Green Pledge where we commit to:  

  1. Reduce total energy use across the Public Service by 15% by December 2025;
  2. Achieve the initial target of 30% renewable energy penetration across The Virgin Islands before 2030;
  3. Conserve water within the Public Service and reduce unaccounted-for-water across The Virgin Islands by implementing a strategic programme to identify and fix water distribution system leaks;
  4. Eliminate single use plastics, including plastic water bottles from Government offices and reduce paper use by 25% by December 2025;
  5. Install recycling bins in all Government facilities and;
  6. Actively encourage green procurement in keeping with the Public Procurement Regulations, 2022.

Government will partner with Green VI to deliver ‘Green Thinking Training’ across the Public Service to support implementation of our Pledge. Throughout Environment Month, the Ministry will highlight some of the specific work already being done and on the horizon, including the exciting Solar Technology Energy Programme (STEP) which will make solar energy affordable and easily accessible to all!

Let me take this opportunity to highlight that the Government is going beyond the Public Service Green Pledge to ensure that your Constitutional right to a clean, protected environment is upheld, starting with the passage of landmark comprehensive environmental legislation. I look forward to taking the draft Environment and Climate Change Bill across the legislative finish line by the end of this year.

The Ministry is also working to enhance beach management by prioritizing development of a Territory-level Beach Management Plan and continuing implementation of the Long Bay, Beef Island Beach Management Plan. “Operation Restoration” at Long Bay will ramp up on June 8 with the launch of the initiative to replant at least 200 seagrape trees! The contract for construction of the vending zone has also been awarded and will be signed shortly.

As we move to fully harness the great economic potential of our surrounding seas, the Ministry and its partners, such as ARK, Beyond the Reef, HLSCC, the National Parks Trust and Unite BVI, continue to work to not only restore our beaches, but the other pillars of our Blue Economy, like our coral reefs and mangroves.  We are also exploring sustainable options for dealing with challenges such as marine pollution and mass sargassum landings. The 2023 Virgin Islands Sargassum Adaptive Management Strategy promotes exploring viable commercial applications to turn this challenge into gold. The Ministry also has major ongoing projects to strengthen coastal water quality monitoring and protect our borders from harmful invasive species, with support from RESEMBID and a Darwin Plus Strategic Grant respectively.

On the burning concern of waste management, the Department has increased the level of resourcing provided to the We Recycle programme which it supports through an MOU with Green VI. Enhancing recycling is just one aspect of the comprehensive Waste Management Strategy approved in May for phased implementation. The immediate concern of fixing the incinerator remains a top priority for delivery by the end of the third quarter this year. In the meantime, the Department has ramped up operations to minimize the risk of spontaneous fires at Pockwood Pond.

Let’s work together to usher in a new “green” era in The Virgin Islands! As Premier, I call on everyone who calls The Virgin Islands home to make a personal pledge with me to change the way we think, eat, live, work, purchase and play to improve life for all the special spaces and species of our island home. We are GenerationRestoration.

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