PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis stood in front of one of the biggest international political stages of all on Saturday – the 77th United Nations General Assembly.
In this column last week, we recounted his previous calls for action on climate change – and those of his predecessors – and encouraged him to keep using his voice on the subject.
Not that he needed our encouragement, we are sure, it was likely top of his agenda when it came to writing his speech.
And speak up he did, taking larger nations to task for the lack of action amid all the talk about the need for change.
He said: “Why should small island nations like mine – we who have contributed so little to the climate crisis – experience the biggest burdens and risks of a changing climate? The argument might be straightforward – but it has not been effective.”
He added: “Let this be the year that we turn talk into action. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let those who pledge, write the cheque. Countries like mine, already trapped by billions in climate debt, need funding to transition to renewable energy infrastructures.”
He spoke of the need for The Bahamas to install “solar microgrids across our islands” – admittedly, a topic with bad timing given the struggles for power supply in Ragged Island last week.
He added that we would “require a lot of additional funding. We in The Bahamas are playing our part”.
In this column, we have also spoken of the need for the government to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk – and there is progress in that area, with the launch of a new coastal management programme last week to build infrastructure helping with coastal resilience, such as sea walls and flood plains.
Mr Davis went further in his speech, saying his administration is “defining ways to protect and safeguard our shallow seas, mangroves and seagrasses”.
His was not a lone voice at the assembly.
The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, said: “We may sometimes have the impression that we say the same things, that we repeat each other. I would like to disagree. If committing to peace and security, to development and prosperity, to upholding international law and respecting human rights, engaging in genuine efforts to mitigate climate change is repeating each other, then we are doing the right thing.”
The President of the Marshall Islands, David Kabua, faces warnings from experts about the eventual uninhabitability of his country, while saying he must reconcile the inequity of building a seawall to protect one house that will flood another one next door. He urged world leaders to take on sectors that rely on fossil fuels, such as aviation and shipping – including a proposal by the Marshall Islands for a carbon levy on international shipping.
The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, talked of rising sea levels, saying: “This is how a Pacific atoll dies. This is how our islands will cease to exist.”
He added: “This is the first time in history that the collective action of many nations will have made several sovereign countries uninhabitable.”
Robert Abela, Prime Minister of Malta, said climate change “threatens state sovereignty, brings loss of territory, and causes damage to states’ critical infrastructure as well as their existing rights under maritime zone boundaries”.
Vivian Balakrishnan, the Foreign Minister of Singapore, said: “Ultimately, we share this planet. Despite our differences, our destinies are interwoven, and no one is safe until all of us are safe.”
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has also encouraged going after the world’s largest polluters, taxing the profits of energy companies and redirecting the funds to countries affected by the climate crisis.
As Mr Davis was quoted internationally through the Associated Press from the assembly: “Many are beginning to understand that climate inaction is the most expensive option of all.”
We do not speak alone. And the pressure is building.
The question is – will those with the power to do something about it live up to their promises?