Sint Maarten Delegation Attends High Level Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change for Overseas Territories of the European Union

Importance of St. Maarten as a Biodiversity Hotspot with Challenges Highlighted

Sint Maarten sent a four person delegation to the high level Conference on Biodiversity and Climate change held on Guadeloupe from the 24th to the 26th of October. The delegates were Mr. Marc Arnold, head of the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Ms. Olivia Lake, Project Coordinator at the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Mrs. Claire Hooft-Graafland, Senior Policy Advisor Ministry VROMI and NGO Representative  and Tadzio Bervoets Director of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation.

The high-level meeting follows one held in July 2008 on Reunion Island under the French Presidency of the European Union with the goal of better integrating environmental issues and the international importance of the natural heritage of the European Outermost Regions (ORs), the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and their respective geographical regions to position the European Union and its member states as key players in the Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change.

The 9 ORs and the 25 OCTs, including Sint Maarten, are home to a remarkable, yet threatened, biodiversity which renders them among international biodiversity hot spots and the European Union and the Member States concerned among mega-diverse entities. Moreover, the location of the ORs and the OCTs gives the European Union the largest maritime domain in the world, scattered over all the oceans.

The ORs’ and OCTs’ biodiversity represents not only a natural heritage of International importance, but also a key element of the economic, social and cultural potential of these territories. This biodiversity faces major threats such as competition for space, invasive species, and pollution that have caused some species and habitats to disappear. Adding up to those well-documented threats, Climate Change greatly impacts the ORs and the OCTs.

Presentations and discussions were held regarding St. Maarten’s steps towards biodiversity conservation, particularly with regards to protected areas and zoning as well as discussions on how to access European Union funding for conservation on the island. A roadmap for future regional and global development was drafted during the tree day conference. The European Commission has different funding opportunities available for regional projects that St. Maarten government or NGO’s will pursue. The roadmap will furthermore inspire policies and the long term ambitions of the national development plan that is currently being worked on by government in close corporation with the community, NGO’s and the business sector.

The expenses associated with travel to the conference was covered by the OCT Organization and the Regional Council of Guadeloupe.