How serious are we about tackling climate change here in The Bahamas? We ask because the rest of the world seems to be leaving us in their wake.
A new project in the US – Vineyard Wind, which you can read about on page 13 today – is set to generate enough electricity for at least 400,000 homes, all from an offshore wind farm.
Think of that – 400,000 homes. That’s enough to supply our entire nation and more.
We’ve known we need to change our power generation for years, but with a system seemingly perpetually on the verge of breakdown BPL and government have put their faith in a “quick” fix of using liquefied natural gas as the future for The Bahamas. This solution is so old that Leslie Miller crept out of the woodwork before Christmas to remind everyone how he advocated for LNG back in 2005.
Just for clarity, LNG is natural gas that has been converted to liquid form, making it easier to store and transport. It creates about a third less pollution than burning fuel oil – but is that the limit we should be aiming for? After all, the main talk about the LNG deal being pushed at BPL is all about price to consumers rather than environment.
In 2014, it was then-prime minister Perry Christie who warned of the dangers facing the country. A line he often touted while abroad yet seldom seemed to emphasise at home, he warned the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City that “for The Bahamas, climate change is serious business”. He added: “This threatens our very existence. Here is what the scientists say, 80 percent of my nation’s land mass will be lost if the sea level rises 1.5 metres. They also say that with a warming of 3.7-4.8°C, as currently predicted, The Bahamas we know would be no more.”
The former PM called for developed nations to honour a commitment to pay $100bn a year to help tackle climate change. The deadline on that sum? Next year 2020. He said The Bahamas expected its fair share of that figure. So, with a year to go, how much are we getting – and can we use it to be a little more ambitious in supplying the power needs of our nation?
It’s a baton picked up by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis when he attended meetings in New York last year, who pointed to the effects of hurricanes, saying “the war we’re fighting in terms of hurricanes is not our war, it’s a war caused by climate change… we make very little contribution to the climate change as we see it but we’re the ones who feel all the effects”.
The most obviously environmentally-friendly project to be suggested by the government is the plan to use solar power in the reconstruction of Ragged Island – but that proposal seems to have gone deathly quiet. In addition, last month Dr Minnis said the government intends to bring legislation to allow homeowners to have some degree of solar power. Little steps for customers, but is there a chance for a bold move by the government? Where is our long-term goal? Countries such as Iceland, Albania and Uruguay generate nearly 100 percent of their power from renewable sources – couldn’t we follow suit?
There seems little political will to aim for such a goal. But as we continue to work out a deal over another way of burning fossil fuels to serve the nation’s needs, can we ask ourselves if there is a way of being better?
Or is “It’s better in The Bahamas” really nothing more than a slogan?