Visiting: Meg Munn
Visiting: Meg Munn
Bermuda cannot afford to be complacent over its wealth, reputation or natural resources.

That is the message that Meg Munn, U.K. Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, is bringing to the Government. Ms Munn, who arrived on the island yesterday, admires Bermuda's level of prosperity, but said the island cannot afford to "rest on its laurels."

Climate change, in particular, could pose a severe threat to the island's future unless steps are taken to help protect the environment, Ms Munn told the Bermuda Sun. It is also "vitally important" that the overseas territories, including Bermuda, push towards greater transparency and best practice in government in order to protect their reputations.

In her first visit to Bermuda, Ms Munn will meet with Premier Ewart Brown, members of his cabinet and the Governor, Sir Richard Gozney. In a telephone interview before leaving the U.K., Ms Munn said: "Bermuda is very successful, as a financial centre, but nobody these days can afford to rest on their laurels. We will be discussing the sustainability of Bermuda, in the long term. One of the major issues will be the likely effects of climate change. With worsening hurricanes and potential rising sea levels, island nations are going to be very vulnerable to changes in our climate.

"Obviously, Bermuda, because of its size, has a relatively small impact on a global scale [in terms of climate change.] Having said that, every individual needs to think about his or her own contribution, and every territory needs to think about how it will cope with the likely effects [of climate change.] Every government needs to be reducing energy use and also looking at moving towards renewable sources of energy. We would encourage Bermuda as a whole to think about renewable resources. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this; nobody can say that the current resources are going to last indefinitely."

The Bermuda Government has recently added an energy department to its portfolio. However, the island is still almost exclusively reliant on fossil fuel power, with no alternatives on the horizon. Ms Munn said that in the Falkland Islands - another U.K. territory - a wind farm has recently been built which already produces 18 per cent of the country's electricity. Asked if Bermuda is lagging behind countries like the Falklands, Ms Munn said it served no purpose to compare territories. However, she said that it was vitally important that territories shared best practice knowledge.

On the subject of good governance, Ms Munn also resisted comparing Bermuda with the Cayman Islands. Ms Munn has previously praised Cayman for passing a freedom of information law and other good governance legislation. The Bermuda Government was criticised during and after the election for promising nothing in the way of increased transparency or scrutiny within Government. In fact, many critics argue the Government is moving in the opposite direction by putting pressure on both the Auditor General and the media.

Ms Munn said she would be discussing good governance on the island. She said: "Good governance is key to society. Transparency, checks and balances, are immensely important in order to create trust between a government and the people. We will be discussing good governance in Bermuda - what can be done in Bermuda. Whether the country needs freedom of information legislation is a second-order conversation."