Bahamas Gears up to Address Climate Change

The Bahamas government is moving to put measures in place to help the extremely vulnerable islands adjust to what one government official calls a possible ‘death sentence for small islands.’

Mr. Phillip Weech, Director of the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission, said that the government was working on an energy policy, exploring alternative sources of energy as well as more sustainable tourism options in a bid to prepare the over 700 islands for the possible effects of climate change.

“Bahamas has no national energy policy….. we have prepared it and are doing public consultations to take it forward,” said Weech, who was addressing a workshop put on by the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to discuss the feasibility of doing a review on the Economics of Climate Change in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean is regarded as one of the regions that will be most affected by climate change.

According to Weech, the Bahamas was one of the most vulnerable island countries in the region because of how flat it is.

“We are not a high island country like Jamaica or anywhere else – anywhere on the Bahamian islands is about 1.5m above sea-level. We are almost like pancakes,” he said while adding that the flatness of the islands increased its vulnerability to sea-level rise. He highlighted other vulnerabilities such as the high dependence on imported energy and food as well as the increasing costs of these commodities as areas in which there would have to be significant change.

“Adaptation is a priority for us but we have to do it in light of our circumstance,” said Weech. “We have to diversity and to do so in renewable technology such as using wind, energy and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.”

“We have to look at our hotel sector – there is new techno in Paradise Island – which allows you to dim lights and reduce electricity use based on their occupation level but most of our old hotels have nothing like this – So the hotels have to look at having energy efficient systems,” he explained. “Energy assessments and audits: how much energy is used to keep someone in a hotel? How much energy is used in government departments? What about the use of transport – how much energy is used to move one person from point a to point b? We need to be a lot more energy efficient.”

He added however, that the Bahamas was already doing the following to address climate change:

  • establishing terrestrial and marine reserves as well as parks and protected areas across the Bahamas,
  • reducing emissions from land degradation and deforestation (REDD)
  • fulfilling obligations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through assessment reports
  • and maintaining engagement with regional bodies including the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States.

Weech’s presentation was well received and the Director of ECLAC’s Caribbean sub-region, Neil Pierre, speaking at last week’s workshop said that the feedback from the Bahamas workshop would feed into the feasibility studies being planned for the Caribbean.

“Actions must be based on informed economic decision-making – the RECCC (Review of the Economics of Climate Change in the Caribbean) will give policymakers this,” said Pierre. “RECCC will arm policymakers with high quality information and informed analysis so that they can effectively play their part at an international level.”

The RECCC Study is expected to be done over a two year period. The first phase (September 2008 – March 2009) has already started with preliminary workshops on climate change in the Caribbean.

“We hope that this project will arrive at some preliminary findings to inform Caribbean government’s at the Copenhagen negotiations (December 2009),” said Pierre.

Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, PANOS writer

     

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