SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Honorable Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria E. Jacobs attended EarthX 2022 Forum in Dallas, Texas from April 20 until April 23, for a working visit, profiling St. Maarten on an international level. The trip, dubbed a success for St. Maarten, served as a means to cultivate relationships and form partnerships to advance advocates, investors, accelerators, and researchers on sustainable environmental activities. The EarthX Forum is the world's largest annual environmental forum aimed at showcasing initiatives, research, innovations, policies, and corporate practices serving the environment. The series of conferences further seeks to connect world leaders with innovative international and local organizations/ideas, committed to sustainability and making the world a better place.
The event kicked off on April 20, with a series of panel discussions, presentations, and interviews. Prime Minister Jacobs opened the first session with a speech on women leadership in the sustainable fashion movement. The fashion event emphasized the environmental impacts of “fast fashion,” provided information about alternative materials, and highlighted the importance of women leading the charge in the sustainable fashion world.
On April 21, Prime Minister Jacobs participated in a session with Nicholas J. Davis, CEO of GridMarket, whereby they discussed the St. Maarten–GridMarket–Island Resilience Partnership engagement and the opportunity to invest in the National Energy Transitions of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It is through the partnership with GridMarket that St. Maarten is now exploring and securing the transition to renewable and sustainable energy. This will allow St. Maarten to receive support in developing an energy roadmap aligned with the new global roadmap issued last September by the United Nations (UN) which seeks to achieve a radical transformation of energy access and transition by 2030, while at the same time contributing to net zero emissions by 2050.
As SIDS, we are part of the smallest and most remote states in the world. We are a diverse group of islands differing in population, size, and development opportunities. Yet, we share common challenges and vulnerabilities that often prevent us from being able to invest in resilient and sustainable development, particularly as it pertains to renewable energy. With the global challenges of climate change, it is pivotal that we strengthen the relationship between and amongst our sister islands as well as the outermost regions such as islands in the Pacific Ocean as the challenges they face today, will be the challenges we face tomorrow. EarthX offers the platform for partnership engagement as it stimulates and facilitates discussions between investors and SIDS leaders. Therefore, prospects for tangible investments are fostered by attending such illustrious events.
Following the E-Capital discussion, Prime Minister Jacobs was given the opportunity to address a gathering of youth at the Youngo Summit, a partnership for the goals (SDG 17). This summit was focused on launching the Preparing the Youth to become Negotiators for the Goals, an initiative launched on April 22. “As an educator by profession, I have long been captivated by the youth’s willingness to peel back the layers to examine, critique, and question norms. This is their strength! Often unhindered by tradition and full of optimism, this willingness to dissect combined with fresh ideas means youth are often well-equipped to address the ever-changing and multidimensional issues that form our common agenda,” Prime Minister Jacobs stated as she addressed the gathering.
“The Kingdom of the Netherlands has a voice in the global climate crisis discussions, and SIDS must be empowered to highlight our issues at these stages as well. As the only Caribbean island in attendance, I am proud to have been invited to promote St. Maarten on such a world stage and be able to bring awareness to the challenges we face,” she continued.
Prime Minister Jacobs expressed the need for us as SIDS to make use of our lessons learned, and to bring awareness to support our plight in the fight against climate change, among other SDGs. “Creating spheres for collaboration between next-generation leadership and island leaders offers a very nuanced and dynamic approach, particularly in the use of social media and immersive technology, to raise awareness and bring about innovative solutions to tomorrow’s challenges,” she stated.
Her participation in the summit culminated in an activity introducing the concept of a reciprocity ring. Designed to foster skills in stakeholder building and negotiation, participants sat in a circle posing clear requests, accompanied by a timeline. Fellow group members then indicated their ability to assist or offered guidance or suggestions to achieve the request. Prime Minister Jacobs expressed her enjoyment of the activity as an empowering tool for supporting youth engagement and promised to connect the organization with youth leaders and change-makers from Sint Maarten.
On April 22, Earth Day, as the only Caribbean island represented, Prime Minister Jacobs had the privilege of delivering the Island Resilience Partnership keynote address. The Island Resilience Forum brings island leaders from all around the world together, not only to discuss solutions to the UN SDGs but also to develop partnerships to achieve these goals. In attendance this year, were the Ambassadors of various Pacific Islands (Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Kiribati) and the ambassadors to the Solomon Islands. They all spoke of their challenges with climate change, whether it be the loss of islands due to the rise in sea level, the adverse effects of overfishing and trawling, to other natural disasters. Islands share one commonality, though small, they are greatly impacted by the effects of climate change.
In her keynote address, Prime Minister Jacobs highlighted the importance of securing our utility sectors, based on our history with Hurricanes Luis in 1995 and Irma in 2017. They revealed energy vulnerabilities such as having our sole energy plant in a low-lying coastal area while damage to overhead cabling required a large-scale recovery effort to restore power in specific areas. Additionally, “the COVID-19 pandemic revealed social, economic and financial vulnerabilities. It resulted in the loss of employment, and a rise in the cost of living since St. Maarten is heavily dependent on imported goods and services, which experienced significant disruption in the supply chains. Our response to this so-called “new normal” has been to redouble our efforts for sustainable national development,” Prime Minister Jacobs mentioned.
Energy, in this regard, is seen as one of the main drivers that affect the cost of living. It affects transportation costs, food prices, healthcare expenses, and, of course, utility costs. Needless to say, energy also affects our environment. The fluctuating world prices of petroleum constitute an enormous financial burden on the people and their quality of life.
UN Family Offices for Sustainable Development (FOSD)
Prime Minister Jacobs was invited to speak on the role of private investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on April 22. Organized by the UN Family Offices for Sustainable Development (FOSD), the program is managed by PVBLIC Foundation & the UN Office for Partnership. FOSD brings together small groups of global family offices, privately-held companies that handle investment management for a family of means, committed to advancing the completion of the SDGs to create greater impact via collaboration with UN agencies and with each other. In her address, Prime Minister Jacobs spoke on the importance and opportunities of investing capital in parts of the world that are on the front line of the climate crisis.
UN SDG Media Summit
On April 23, Prime Minister Jacobs held a dynamic talk at the UN SDG Media Summit under the theme Fostering Leadership, wherein she highlighted the youth of St. Maarten building awareness of the UN SDG goals, as well as their view on the approach to achieve them. The UN SDG goals video featuring St. Maarten students expressing their knowledge, awareness, and ideas about the SDS including Climate through the arts, received a resounding commendation from the audience. One audience member stated, “the video brought me to tears.”
The Media Summit exchanged ideas as it seeks to ensure the best use of media is used to bring more awareness of climate change in particular, and the SDGs in general to the general public to increase participation in the achievement of the goals. The clear conclusion was to ensure the messenger is relatable, conscious of its audience, representative of all of humanity, and that all possible and variety of media forms should be used with messaging being repeated often.
Based on the overall impact of Prime Minister Jacobs’ addresses throughout the week, the moderator of the Blockchain Impact Finance Summit requested that she close off the summit on April 23. During this session, Prime Minister Jacobs highlighted the importance of technology and innovation in supporting emerging economies around the world, especially for us as SIDS. “Our Minister of Finance, being a millennial himself, is a proponent of the emerging blockchain innovation, and has been trying to educate us as a Council of Ministers and Parliament of the proponents and the adverse effect it can have on our economy, as we work to diversify our one pillar economy,” said Prime Minister Jacobs. “It’s their world, they were born to it, we’re the immigrants,” Prime Minister Jacobs mentioned referring to the age of information and the forward-thinking innovators we call our youth.
With this in mind, St. Maarten has established a public-private partnership utilizing artificial intelligence to accelerate our national energy transition. “As countries (not only SIDS), focus should be on the emerging technologies, as this can help us in achieving SDG goals 1 eradicating people in poverty and 2, ending world hunger. Combining these innovations to achieve SDG 1&2, with the partnership for the goals SDG 17 is observed as a more viable option for SIDS to achieve and sustain our populations for continued financial and economic resilience beyond 2030,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
We must consider the environmental impact of the new technologies being developed to support economies, otherwise, we may achieve development goals - but they will not be sustainable. It is therefore imperative that we work together to achieve the UN SDGs by 2030, to ensure the phase after 2030; our evaluation phase, where we begin to give back to the earth what we’ve taken.
A high-level gala was organized on the last day, to celebrate partnerships and thank this year’s participants. The EarthX 2022 Forum was a huge success for St. Maarten as the island was heavily featured on the international stage for 4 consecutive days. The feedback received was very encouraging lending to potential prospects for investment, creating new partnerships, and most importantly may accelerate our goal for renewable forms of energy in St. Maarten way before the 2030 goal! “Funding possibilities exist and I am committed to finding them for St. Maarten. I would like to thank my team for their support, making it possible for St. Maarten to be represented throughout all discussion sessions,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
In the coming months, St. Maarten will continue building on the foundation laid at the EarthX 2022 Forum, having already scheduled meetings and follow-up plans with several key stakeholders. Using this momentum, I encourage all local stakeholders to also do their part in St. Maarten.
By the end of 2022, and early on in 2023, a roadmap with GridMarket will be established, paving the transition to renewable energy prospects. “On behalf of the Government of St. Maarten, I’d like to thank EarthX founder Tramell Crowe, EarthX organizers, GridMarket’s entire team, Nick, Peter, Matt, and Jillian for all their hard work and dedication in ensuring the goal of St. Maarten, Partnerships for the goals were achieved,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.