Climate scientists predict that stronger storms over the next few decades will cost the territory tens of millions in tourism losses and hurricane damages. The memberships of all six appointed members of the Climate Change Trust Fund Board, installed to help address the effects of global warming, were revoked in a April 24 Cabinet meeting. Pictured above is Cane Garden Bay, where most beach bars were destroyed in the 2017 storms. Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS

On April 24 the Cabinet decided to revoke the membership of all six appointed members of the Climate Change Trust Fund board.

The board’s enabling legislation, however, doesn’t appear to grant Cabinet the authority for such a sweeping move.

Section 16 of the Climate Change Trust Fund Act states that with Cabinet approval the minister overseeing the fund — who in this case is Premier Andrew Fahie — may revoke a board member’s appointment for specific reasons: misconduct, absenteeism, a conflict of interest, failure to fulfil the conditions of appointment, or acting in a way that is “detrimental to the trust.”

But in a message last Thursday, the premier told the Beacon that the memberships were revoked because of a new “policy” under which the boards of all government committees and statutory bodies will have a tenure mirroring the “life span” of the government in power.

He added that all such bodies will be appointed new members and that the action was not specific to any one entity.

Mr. Fahie also said that some original members would be allowed to serve on the new boards but that their membership would extend only as long as the current administration is in power.

Asked about the legality of revoking the trust fund’s board, he wrote that the “issue is well at hand and that will be advanced in due course,” but he did not elaborate further.

Legislation

The Climate Change Trust Fund Act was drafted in accordance with the territory’s 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Policy, which called for the creation of the fund to help pay for the costs of addressing the effects of global warming.

The bill, which was passed in 2015, laid the legal groundwork for the fund, which would be sustained with environmental fees and grants and managed by an independent board installed in 2017.

Though the unpaid board members — who can be appointed for terms up to three years — have since drafted a manual and carried out other duties, as of December 2018 the fund had no money, and Mr. Fahie did not respond to questions about whether that has changed.

Last December, the Cabinet agreed to designate a percentage of the new environmental and tourism levy for the fund, but the
House of Assembly has not yet acted on the recommendation.

Portfolio change

The Climate Change Trust Fund previously fell under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, but was moved to the Premier’s Office in the government reshuffling following the Feb. 25 election.

In a message on Monday, Mr. Fahie told the Beacon that the premier has the authority to reassign portfolios to different ministries at his discretion, but he would not say when a new board would be appointed.

Government announced last month that it was hiring Claude Skelton-Cline’s firm Grace Consultants for $98,000 over a six-month period to provide advice on the development of a “climate resilience and renewable energy unit,” among other projects.

It is not clear how this “unit” would fit in with the trust fund.

Ed Childs, the chairman of the Climate Change Trust Fund board, declined to comment.

Governor Gus Jaspert, who chairs Cabinet, did not respond to requests for comment, and the Beacon was unable to reach Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Permanent Secretary Ronald Smith-Berkeley.


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