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Government found lacking on sustainable development

Government 23 Mar, 2023 Follow News

Sue Winspear

The Office of the Auditor General has just released a report which shows how government is performing against United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in areas such as renewable energy, waste management, environmental protection, affordable housing, and action on climate change.

The report, called ‘Overview of the Cayman Islands’ performance against the Sustainable Development Goals’, focused on eight SDGs and 47 targets that focused on the environment. Two targets did not apply to the Cayman Islands, and no data was available for 16 targets, so the OAG assessed progress against 29 targets. 11 targets were to be met by 2020 and the OAG assessed that only two of these were met and nine were not met. A further 18 targets had deadlines in the future or no target date set. The OAG assessed that just two of the 18 had been met, two were on track, some progress had been made with five, and there had been limited or no progress with nine.

Sue Winspear, the Auditor General, said the report was their first report on the environment and the Sustainable Development Goals, and their assessment showed “a mixed picture.”

“There are no data to measure and report on around one-third of the targets. I encourage the Government to start collecting the data needed to measure progress against all relevant SDG targets,” she said.

In relation to affordable and clean energy, the report states that electricity costs were high, and there had been limited progress in increasing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency, and, as of February 2023, only three per cent of Grand Cayman’s energy was renewable, and there was no publicly available data for the Sister Islands.

With regard to the UN’s SDG of the development of sustainable cities and communities, the report found Cayman lacking, with limited progress noted in providing affordable housing, a sustainable transport system and a national development plan. 

Ms Winspear noted: “The National Housing Development Trust has a waiting list of about 400 applicants but only constructed 11 houses in Grand Cayman between 2020 and 2022,” noting however that it planned to build 64 houses in North Side and West Bay.

“The Sister Islands Affordable Housing Corporation did not construct any houses between 2019 and 2022. Although I note that it plans to restart its affordable housing programme in 2023,” she added.

Waste management and consumption was highlighted as a big problem in the Cayman Islands. The report stated that the waste generated per capita in the Cayman Islands was significantly higher than the global average, and there was limited recycling, with, on average, each person generating about 11 pounds, or five kilograms, of waste daily, more than five times the global average. In addition, less than three per cent of waste was recycled.

“The government is currently negotiating a public–private partnership for an integrated solid waste management system, known as ReGen. I hope the final contract delivers a project that will improve the islands’ waste management and provide value for money,” she said.

The report also highlighted the fact there was no climate change policy for the Cayman Islands and carbon dioxide emissions were high.

The Auditor General said she was pleased the government had recently completed a climate change risk assessment and was currently drafting a climate change policy, but said carbon dioxide emissions, at 15 metric tonnes per capita, were more than three times the global average and 68 per cent higher than the government’s 2030 target.

“Carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming, which has key consequences for small islands like rising sea levels, more intense tropical storms and coastal flooding. I acknowledge that carbon dioxide emissions are high primarily due to the islands’ reliance on diesel for electricity generation and private motor vehicles for transport, but action is needed to reduce these and their impact,” she said.

The report stated that the government had an Environmental Protection Fund financed by departure fees levied on travellers leaving the Cayman Islands via the airport or cruise ship terminal. Ms. Winspear said it should only be used for acquiring and managing protected areas and measures to protect and conserve protected species and their critical habitats, but that funds for this purpose still were not ring-fenced.

On the positive side, the report highlighted some environment-related successes, including some measures taken to protect the environment. In addition, the Cayman Islands’ Covid-19-related mortality rate compared very well with that of other countries globally.

The Auditor General said her office planned to do further performance audits focusing on specific environmental issues in the future and they would use the data in this report as a baseline for those performance audits.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Sustainability & Climate Resiliency said it supported the aim of the newly released report and looked forward to conducting its own comprehensive review of the information gathered by the OAG over the next few weeks.

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