Climate Change, Pressing Issue for The Bahamas

Minister Mitchell at climate conference in Rome.

From: Bahamas Information Services

Climate change is a pressing issue for The Bahamas and will require international public policy changes in order for it to be properly addressed, said Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Fred Mitchell, Tuesday, while participating in the 10 th Italy-Latin America and the
Caribbean Conference in Rome, under the theme, ‘People, Planet, Prosperity: The Future of an Age-Old Partnership.’ He noted that 80 percent of The Bahamas’ landmass sits within one metre of the ocean, “therefore, for us the rise in sea level as a result of climate
change, is existential.”

Bringing remarks that focused on port, or coastal, towns at the two-day conference at Hotel Cavalieri, he said that the issue of climate change is becoming more urgent because with each heavy downpour of rain, the [local] population panics because there is heavy flooding and ponding, which seems to take longer and longer to dissipate. “In the short term, we have to take measures to adapt and mitigate what is happening. This includes the building of sea walls. But this is going to require money,” he said. “And here’s where we come to ‘how do we access funds for adaptation and mitigation?’ The question arises throughout all countries in the Caribbean as we have no access to concessional funding or financing.” He pointed to the need for public policy changes with regards to international financing that can deal with real commitments to cut emissions, real progress and bridging the divides in investment, and access to technology and skills especially in areas relevant to climate mitigation and adaptation.

He said the Bahamian government will move to build structural and economic resilience in a green recovery with plans to invest in climate-smart infrastructure and environmental protection. “We want to lead on wetland and ocean preservation. It goes without saying that there are scores of port towns in The Bahamas. I have already said how close we are to sea level, so these port towns are clearly sensitive to ocean level rise.”

Giving the example of a major climate event that affects the Caribbean – hurricanes — he remarked The Bahamas has spent, since the devastating Hurricane Dorian of 2019, millions of dollars trying to recover. “Dorian happened two years ago, passing over the northern islands for about 15-16 hours and I believe many of you may remember the settlements that were completely wiped out by the hurricane and are still struggling to survive.

“So as I end, as I began, the question of climate change and what’s happening with the environment is existential for The Bahamas and we make a moral case — yes seek a moral suasion — to move the needle in public policy on this matter.” Minister Mitchell also spoke briefly about the current immigration crisis currently taking place in the country. “Right now, we have a migration crisis in The Bahamas, largely driven by the difficulties of our southern neighbour. We share this issue of migration with Italy. Our suspicion is that as climate change becomes more of a front and centre issue, migration is going to become a more important issue affecting our economy in The Bahamas.”