PM: Bahamas' survival at stake over climate change

By Fay Simmons


Tribune Business Reporter

The Prime Minister has warned that The Bahamas will "not survive" unless it can become more resilient against, and better adapt to, the impact of climate change.

Philip Davis KC, speaking at a Caribbean Council reception in London, reiterated previous statements that more than 40 percent of The Bahamas' $11bn-plus national debt was incurred from post-hurricane repair and restoration costs over the past several decades.

That would place the combined hurricane bill at close to $5bn, and he added: "We estimate that more than 40 percent of our national debt is due to damage caused by hurricanes. That single fact casts an unflinching light on our situation. We are caught in a cycle of disaster, repair and rebuild. Each hurricane, such as that Category 5 monster called Dorian, unleashes catastrophic disaster, which forces us once again to have to repair and rebuild.”

Mr Davis asserted that climate change presents a greater challenge to The Bahamas than the growing influx of illegal migrants from both Haiti and Cuba. "Closer to home in The Bahamas, we have to contend with the almost complete breakdown of the functions of the state in Haiti, and the weakness of the economy of Cuba, which is still heavily weighed down by the American embargo," he said.

"Towering above the rising prices, the supply chain disruptions, and the misery and desperation of the thousands of Haitian and Cuban refugees who make their way to our shores, towering above all of these is the issue of climate change. For us, the threat of warming oceans, rising sea levels, severe coastal erosion and the incidence of catastrophic hurricanes, which are still growing in frequency and intensity, all contribute to a threat which is truly existential.

"If we cannot find ways to make our country more resilient to these shocks, we will not survive. If we cannot find ways to adapt, to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods, we will not survive. For us, these series of global shocks present a stark truth about the need for active and urgent partnership," Mr Davis continued.

"We are pursuing ways to grow and diversify our economy, while at the same time actively participating in discussions seeking support from the industrialised nations. We are pleased that there are growing pledges to provide reparation for the damage being done by climate change. As we are on the receiving end of their carbon emissions, we welcome this move towards fairness and climate justice.”

Mr Davis said The Bahamas was making progress in efforts to monetise its natural carbon sinks, namely mangroves and seagrass, with the latter resource said to be capable of absorbing more carbon than the Amazon rainforest.

“We are also proud of the work we are doing in developing a market in blue carbon credits," he added. "Thus far, our research findings indicate that our seas and seagrasses absorb more carbon than the Amazon rainforest. With such a sizeable resource, we see enormous potential in monetising and developing this new asset class, one which the IMF has already indicated that they will support.”

“Apart from these innovations in existing sectors, we are also diversifying into new areas of economic activity. So, for example, we see significant potential in strengthening our cultural and creative sectors, and to expand the commercialisation of the creative industries. As a starting point, we are furthering plans to build a tertiary-level school for the creative and performing arts, which will develop the talent and skill needed to grow the sector.”

Mr Davis continued: “We are also strongly focused on enhancing our food security, and have recently launched initiatives to expand chicken and egg production. More broadly, there are infrastructural and development opportunities and needs, some related to the impact of climate disasters which I referenced earlier. In health and education, in the creation of jobs and the reduction of the cost of living, we invite investment partnerships across our full economic landscape.”

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