By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas “must be at the table” in developing a financial compensation mechanism for climate change, a top official said yesterday, adding: “The next hurricane can wipe us out.”
Rochelle Newbold, the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) director, argued that The Bahamas’ presence at the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change conference was vital to try and seek redress for environmental change this nation is not responsible for.
With The Bahamas having suffered an estimated $3.4bn in economic losses and damage as a result of Hurricane Dorian, Ms Newbold told a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office that this nation bore no responsibility or influence over the global warming thought to be producing sea level rise and increasingly more frequent and powerful hurricanes.
Asserting that “even if The Bahamas did 100 percent of what we ought to do” in living up to its Paris climate accords commitment, she added that this nation was “a drop in the bucket” when compared to major green house gas emitters such as China, the US and major industrialised nations.
“We need to be there to ensure The Bahamas gets a fair share,” Ms Newbold said, referring to talks on a potential funding mechanism that would potentially help compensate small island developing states (SIDS) for losses and damage stemming from hurricanes and other climate-related events.
The Bahamas has consistently struggled to access grant financing and other forms of development funding for several decades due to its high per capita income levels, and the DEPP director warned that this nation could suffer the same fate on climate change if it was not present in Glasgow at COP26 to make its case.
“People look at The Bahamas and say we’re too rich, we have all these hotels, drive all these fancy cars and do all these things,” she added. “We do need money. The next hurricane can truly wipe out this country.”
Ms Newbold said The Bahamas also needed to exploit potential opportunities such as carbon credits, particularly given its large coastal sea area - something she branded as the biggest in the region, and more expansive than all other Caribbean countries combined.
She explained that The Bahamas now has an opportunity to use its sea grass, mangroves and coral reefs as “currency” when it came to carbon credits, adding: “The environment is our economy. It’s important for us to be there. It’s financially important, it’s socially important, and it’s important to ensure we are part of this global discussion.
“If you are not part of the international discussions, you do not exist on this planet. We have to be there in order to have a voice. We’re going to COP26 to talk about this [financing] mechanism for loss and damage. We suffered damage and loss. We suffered the event [Dorian].
“If we are not there to ask the question, and who pays, they will say it’s your country, your damage and you should pay.”