How Bermuda Is Taking Action On Climate Change
Bermuda has been green since its inception. From centuries-old conservation legislation to a captive insurance model created 60 years ago to the climate risk finance framework being constructed today, Bermuda has always lead the way in balancing business and environmental protections. Sustainable practices have protected Bermuda’s resources and enabled the island to be a thriving business center. In fact, Bermuda remains the 3rd highest jurisdiction for insurance and the single-most important property and catastrophe market in the world.
Bermuda is one of the rare places where passionate environmental research and conservation organisations intersect with climate risk mitigation-minded businesses and green government policies to create a fortified response to climate change. We are where businesses innovate and thrive alongside a flourishing natural environment.
As the Bermuda Business Development Agency, we have tracked the development of the island’s advances on everything green. We’re in touch with the experts, from the conservation of endemic species to responsible land development, renewable energy breakthroughs, climate risk finance and beyond.
Legacy Of Firsts
1620 is the landmark year that Bermuda passed what is possibly the New World’s first ever written conservation legislation.
The year is 1620. Bermuda’s first capital was established eight years prior, and the bountiful shores quickly become known for one particular animal: sea turtles. In this landmark year, Bermuda passes what is likely the New World’s first-ever written conservation legislation. The law prohibits catching and killing young turtles that measure less than 18 inches across or around the shell.
With that ground-breaking legislation, Bermuda kicked off what would become centuries of conservation work.
As Bermuda grew, so too did its conservation efforts. From parrotfish to native plant species and fishery management to clean air, the island’s stakeholders have worked to keep Bermuda green before “going green” was mainstream.
A Blueprint For The Future
Today, a vanguard of innovators heralds a range of initiatives touching on all areas of the island’s lifestyles and environments. It’s proof that strong environmental stewardship and a healthy business climate can co-exist.
The Bermuda Business Development Agency is building a framework around climate risk finance mitigation, combining Bermuda’s strengths with the country’s forward-thinking policies. Climate risk finance is part of our DNA, part of our future.
From parrotfish to native plant species and fishing management to clean air, the island’s stakeholders have worked to keep Bermuda green before “going green” was mainstream.
Bermuda is an ideal testing ground for investors. The island nation’s small but sophisticated population – and the island’s highly connected infrastructure – makes Bermuda an ideal place for beta testing key innovations. In addition, strong relationships with the government and regulators cements Bermuda’s position as a top spot for creative innovation.
The Bermuda Monetary Authority’s (BMA) Sandbox is one example of how this system is making an impact. The Sandbox is set up specifically as an innovative track for companies to test new technologies or business models. It provides the opportunity to test innovations on a limited number of clients in a controlled environment.
See how climate-focused initiatives covering Bermuda’s land, sea and air have been brought to life and are currently evolving.
Island life comes with benefits as well as responsibility. We’re working to preserve the island’s pristine nature and high quality of life – and that’s also great for business.
Developers are diversifying the use of spaces across the island, expanding the functions of buildings to multi-use areas. The Government Department of Planning has been championing these efforts with The City of Hamilton Plan and Northeast Hamilton Local Plan. Both plans are integral to this effort, laying out how to revitalise key areas and pursue development wisely. These plans will not only help make the island more walkable, but will encourage spaces to have everything needed to eat, stay and play all in one place.
These plans will not only help make the island more walkable, but will encourage spaces to have everything needed to eat, stay and play all in one place.
Along with those plans, the new Bermuda Plan is a major protection of the island’s terrestrial environment. The plan deters utilising woodland and conservation reserves, making sure those resources are protected for future generations. New developments are also required to give up part of their land to conservation efforts. Non-development rules also work in concert with these efforts – the island protects open spaces while also allowing responsible growth. So, while there are many exciting new developments across the island, some dedicated land is to remain undeveloped.
Energy efficiency standards are another area of conservation where we’re taking what we have and making it even better. With new building code standards and the Electricity Act 2016, developers are moving toward better energy usage and more concessions for renewable energy. And all of these efforts are being driven by new data from ongoing Climate Studies. The latest studies focus on the effects of sea-level rise on coastal erosion and the inland environment, helping policy makers and stakeholders understand what is going on now so we can build better in the future.
The new Bermuda Plan is a major protection of the island’s terrestrial environment.
Protecting our land isn’t just about developments and studies, however. Efforts to conserve natural resources started as early as 1627 when the local assembly passed legislation to restrict the export of Bermuda cedar. More recent efforts include The Bermuda National Trust’s tree planting programme. Launched in 2020, this program is working to plant thousands of native tree species across the island.
Consulting work is also under way to find solutions for reducing the use of single use plastics. While single use plastics are a necessity in some cases, sustainable solutions benefit the island’s ecosystems and help eliminate waste.
Bermuda’s conservation efforts started with the sea, and those efforts continue to evolve.
As vast as the ocean is, it isn’t a limitless resource. Bermuda recognised the need to protect the ocean and marine life early on, passing conservation legislation in 1620 to protect sea turtles. Since then, the scope of projects to protect the ocean have expanded beyond specific species to the entire ecosystem.
Nestled on the shore of historic St. George’s Island is a world-class ocean science research facility. Founded in 1903 as the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, also known as BIOS, started the world’s longest-running ocean study. Their work has tracked warming sea temperatures and rising tides, explored Bermuda’s coral reefs, and delved into the human-ocean connection. BIOS’s research reaches beyond Bermuda, impacting ocean conservation worldwide.
The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, also known as BIOS, started the world’s longest-running ocean study.
Some of BIOS’s latest work includes advances in autonomous robotic instrumentation. These self-piloting robots look like underwater airplanes flying through the depths of the ocean. The goal is to create robots that will be able to navigate the ocean and collect real-time data. With advances like these, it’s not a far-fetched idea to think that the world’s longest-running ocean study will be going for decades to come. Read more about BIOS initiatives, including investigations into ocean currents, coral reefs, risk prediction and more.
Continuing worldwide collaboration, in 2014 Bermuda came together with representatives from 10 governments to create the Hamilton Declaration. This collaborative effort expands conservation work of the Sargasso Sea Commission, bringing together stakeholders to discuss the health of this precious body of water.
Learn how Bermuda is leading the world in environmental stewardship and climate risk mitigation.
The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme will not only protect fish populations but will help diversify the growth of Bermuda’s economy.
Bermuda is also advancing ocean conservation through the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, a plan that will not only help protect fish populations but will also diversify the growth of Bermuda’s economy through sustainable growth in the marine job sector. The plan was unveiled in 2019 and outlines how to responsibly manage 200 miles of ocean around Bermuda (465,000 square kilometres or 180 square miles). One of the more exciting areas of future development is offshore renewables. Early efforts have started on wave power research and choosing sites for offshore wind farms.
When it comes to ocean species protections, in 1993 organisations secured full protection for parrotfish, a colourful fish that’s critical for coral reef health. And even before that, pot fishing was banned in the late 1980s, another step that furthered the protection of Bermuda’s coral reefs.
Clean Air & Energy
Clean air is just the start.
Bermuda is exploring modern solutions to keep its air clean, advancing everything from solar to wind to electric power. As part of this effort, Bermuda is transforming its public transportation, converting the public bus fleet to fully electric vehicles, which not only lowers emissions but operating costs as well.
With a goal for at least 85% of the island’s energy to be from renewable energy sources by 2035.
At the helm of these changes is the new Integrated Resource Plan. This plan lays out Bermuda’s commitment to renewable energy sources with a goal for at least 85% of the island’s energy to be from renewable energy sources by 2035. Combined with the many other renewable energy efforts, this plan will significantly lower carbon emissioons.
Bermuda has made special protections for its feathered friends. While the above work benefits creatures of all kinds, there are specific efforts to protect the Cahow, a ground nesting seabird endemic to Bermuda. A recovery programme was launced in the 1960s to bring back the Cahow from what was considered extinction, and its success is one of the world’s most compelling comeback stories.
Business & Sustainability
Bermuda has a long history of balancing business innovation and sustainability. The highlights below demonstrate its positive impacts on the island and around the world.
Bermuda passes what is likely the first conservation legislation in the New World when it legally prohibits the taking of young sea turtles.
In an effort to conserve Bermuda’s cedar forests, the local assembly passes legislation to restrict the export of the island’s cedar for shipbuilding.
The Bermuda Biological Station for Research is formed in collaboration with Harvard and New York Universities. The renowned facility is now known as the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). In 1954, BIOS’ Hydro station ‘S’ is established, beginning the world’s longest-running ocean study.
The Cahow bird recovery programme is launched to conserve and recover the endemic species once thought extinct. The program and its successes were covered by National Geographic and other major media outlets.
The “Nonsuch Island Living Museum” project is started by Bermuda’s first conservation officer, Dr. David Wingate. Nonsuch Island is the site of an ongoing effort to protect native species and halt the spread of invasive flora and fauna.
The world’s first modern captive insurance model is created in Bermuda by the local captive insurance community. Captives are now an essential piece of business risk management strategy and are enjoying their 60th anniversary in 2022.
A fish pot ban is established. This style of fishing utilises a stationary trap set on the seafloor, which can damage the ecosystem when the traps are dragged up and placed down. The ban also helped to protect popular declining species of fish, including grouper and snapper.
Legislation is passed protecting all parrotfish species. Before protections were enacted, these colourful fish accounted for about 36% of all reef fish caught in Bermuda, putting them in danger of overfishing. The population has since rebounded to healthy numbers.
Several destructive hurricane seasons prompt the founding of the Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI). A collaboration between BIOS climate scientists and local (re)insurance companies, the initiative helps researchers focus on insights into natural disasters.
The Hamilton Declaration on collaboration for the conversation of the Sargasso Sea is signed by Bermuda, Monaco, the Azores, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Bermuda commits to replacing its fleet of public buses and cars to electric vehicles (EVs). This same year, an agreement is made to convert an unused airport runway into a six-megawatt public solar farm.
The Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme is unveiled to responsibly manage 200 miles of ocean around Bermuda (465,000 square kilometres or 180,000 square miles). The plan includes initiatives to improve local livelihoods and jobs as well as to preserve a healthy ecosystem. This same year, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) commits to 85% of power generation coming from renewable resources by 2035, significantly reducing carbon emissions.