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Islands and the Environment 19 April 2008

CHIEF Minister Tony Brown and DTI Minister David Cretney have spoken at an international conference on the special challenges facing island communities in balancing environmental protection with economic growth and the maintenance of vital transport links.

Mr Brown and Mr Cretney, accompanied by Director of External Relations Della Fletcher, represented the Isle of Man Government at the 27th annual general assembly of the CPMR Islands Commission, a gathering of 25 European island regions.

The main focus of the conference, held in Palma de Mallorca in the Balearics, was on the problems for islands in reconciling the need to develop their economies and to support vital transport links – particularly air services – whilst recognising the need to protect the environment.

During discussions the Chief Minister commented on the European Union’s policy of targeting reductions of CO2 emissions from aircraft, the costs to airlines and how this would have a disproportionate effect on islands.

He explained:

‘What I wanted to do was to make two points. Firstly, that additional costs like these, even though they are imposed for the very best of reasons, have a greater effect on islands. We already have the burden of higher transport costs, and often we don’t have any choice but to fly, especially for business purposes.’
‘Secondly, I wanted to make it clear to our fellow delegates that even though the Isle of Man is not in the EU, this regime will impact on us. This is because our air journeys begin and end inside the EU, and in any event we have close ties with the UK and their aviation authority.’

The Chief Minister was a top table guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the President of the Balearic Islands, and also attended a special lunchtime reception at the Presidential Palace – where the political heads of the islands were given an opportunity to meet privately.

Mr Brown commented:

‘It’s always helpful for us to meet at a political level with colleagues from similar regions, and the Islands Commission of the CPMR is an especially useful forum. We can discuss issues of mutual interest with our counterparts from a whole host of islands, from the Mediterranean, to the Baltic, the Scottish Islands, and even the Caribbean.
‘What we learn is that, often, we face the same issues of securing our transport links, supporting our economies and preserving our natural environments - even though we might be very different politically, culturally and economically.’

He concluded:

‘The aim is to raise the profile of the Isle of Man with other island regions and to make useful contacts at political and officer level, so that we can share experiences and learn from each other. The Islands Commission is the ideal forum for this.’

Mr Cretney commented:

‘As the conference was in the Balearics there was an understandable emphasis on sustainable tourism, and a great deal of discussion of the problems they face in preserving their fragile natural environment in the face of the millions of tourists who visit their islands each year. Whilst we, of course, have a very different industry, both the Chief Minister and I were able to comment on the Isle of Man’s achievements in modernising and supporting the tourist industry, given our experience as former Ministers for that Department’.

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