On Tuesday 15 November, the Minister of Health and the Environment, Honourable Molwyn Joseph, accompanied by High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill, met Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace during a reception to acknowledge the commitments from 20 countries across the Commonwealth to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) initiative.
Speaking at the reception, the Honourable Minister Molwyn Joseph was quoted saying:
“Although small, we recognize, as a member of this global family of nations, that we have a responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance our natural environment. Over the past two and a half years, the Ministry of Health and the Environment has developed significant capacity to undertake its responsibility… Clear evidence of our commitment can be seen not only in our support for this initiative, but in being the first Caribbean nation to ban the import and use of plastic bags and by establishing through legislation the Department of Environment. We intend to maintain a sharp focus in meeting all our global commitments, including Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG15), to ensure environmental integrity in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The QCC was launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, in 2015. It is a project designed to create a network of forest conservation initiatives throughout the 52 nations of the Commonwealth to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s service and dedication as Head of the Commonwealth.
The Queen Victoria Park Botanical Garden, commonly known as the Botanical Garden, is located in St. John’s, Antigua and its project was showcased at the reception as an example of conservation best practices across the Eastern Caribbean and greater Commonwealth. Antigua and Barbuda is a leader in the Caribbean in sustainable development and in raising the global profile of the benefits of green-space conservation.
Officially established in 1893, the Botanical Garden has maintained a long history and cultural significance as an open space within the capital city of St. John’s. The restoration project is supported by the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment (DoE), whose office is strategically located within the park grounds. The aims and objectives of the project are to:
- i. Establish a family friendly green space for public use
- ii. Create a hub for the display of environmental projects
- iii. Establish a secure and aesthetically pleasing environment able to accommodate educational and recreational activities
- iv. Provide an alternative tourist destination for visitors.
The Antigua and Barbuda QCC commitment also involves planting 90,000 trees across the islands.
The QCC is led by the Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with Cool Earth, an award-winning UK-based charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction, and the Commonwealth Forestry Association, which links foresters, scientists, students and policy-makers throughout the Commonwealth to seek ways of wise forest management.