LaRoda: Bahamas/Caribbean SIDS paying ‘serious, serious price’ as a result of adverse impacts of climate change

(BIS Photos/Anthon Thompson)

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, the Hon. Myles LaRoda, said The Bahamas has had to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, and the high costs associated with those adverse effects, even though the country bears “very little responsibility for many of the actions that precipitate those impacts.”

Mr. LaRoda gave the Government of The Bahamas high praise for hosting a “very successful” High-Level Regional Dialogue on Climate Change. Held August 16-17 in preparation for COP27 scheduled for November in Egypt, the two-day Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting concluded Wednesday at Baha Mar Resort with the Closing Ceremony. The event was hosted by the Government of The Bahamas on behalf of Caribbean Small- Island Developing States (SIDS), and allowed leaders to sow the seeds for enhanced climate action and support in the region, and to move beyond discussion and towards mitigation and action – especially on the issue of climate financing and insurance.

Local climate change experts say Caribbean SIDS are among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with both natural and human systems in the region already suffering from the negative consequences of a changing climate. They add that recent science and research indicate that coastal settlements and rural communities have already been negatively impacted by issues such as sea-level rise, heavy precipitation events, tropical cyclones and storm surge which has further negative impacts on infrastructure, health and well-being, water, and food security.

State-Minister LaRoda said the Dialogue provided The Bahamas with yet another opportunity to put forth its position on climate change – a position, Mr. LaRoda said Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip E. Davis, Q.C., “once again made very, very clear” during the Prime Minister’s Keynote Address at Tuesday’s Opening Session.

Minister of State for the Public Service, the Hon. Pia Glover-Rolle, also has high-praise for the High-Level Dialogue. State-Minister LaRoda and State- Minister Mrs. Glover-Rolle were among Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentarians attending the Opening Session. During his address, Prime Minister Davis told delegates that half of the country’s National Debt ($10Billion) accrued between 2015 and 2022, was
directly related to four Hurricanes ($5Billion for the period 2015-2019). A breakdown of the costs for those four Hurricanes is as follows: Hurricane Joaquin, 2015, $119.6Million; Hurricane Matthew, 2016, $508.3Million; Hurricane Irma, 2017, $130.8Million and Hurricane Dorian, 2019, $3.41Billion.

“The Prime Minister has made it very, very clear, over and over again, at the United Nations, at CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), that we, the Caribbean, particularly The Bahamas, have had to bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, even though we bear very little responsibility for climate change,” Mr. LaRoda said.

“The Bahamas’ National Debt, as stated by the Prime Minister, is around $10Billion half of which can be directly traced to Hurricanes between the periods 2015-2019. That is a very, very serious price to pay. That is unsustainable.”

State-Minister LaRoda said the $5Billion accrued as a result of more frequent and ferocious hurricanes attributed to climate change could have been spent in other sectors.

“That $5Billion that we have to repay, re-service as a result of those hurricanes, could have gone into education, into healthcare, into paying down the National Debt, into infrastructural development, and so forth. However, we do not have that luxury.”

Mr. LaRoda said the time has come for Caribbean SIDS and other developing nations to collect on the promise of $100Billion annually made by the wealthy, Developed Countries who account for 80 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, to assist the less wealthy nations being impacted by climate change in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. Delivering on that promise has been a slow process, State-Minister LaRoda said.

“It is time to start paying. Hopefully, at COP 27 in November, we can get to a much speedier pace where we can get some sort of financial/economic relief in order to deal with this most serious matter,” State-Minister LaRoda added.

State-Minister Glover-Rolle said the region is at a “critical juncture” with regards to climate change and its adverse impacts. Mrs. Glover-Rolle applauded the high-level of discussions over the two days.

“The discussions were very significant in that we are at the point where we are now looking for solutions to climate change; where we are looking to have conversations across the Caribbean so that we can build alliances; where we are moving from discussion into action,” State-Minister Glover- Rolle said.

“This is a critical juncture. We would have experienced locally, Hurricane Dorian which brought home the impact of climate change. The Prime Minister would have noted in his Opening Remarks that it is becoming more difficult to access insurance; that it is becoming more difficult to access security when 50 per cent of our National Debt speaks to loss and damage from natural disasters. This conversation was critical and its importance was reflected in the number of Heads of Government from the Caribbean who came to The Bahamas specifically for this cause; was reflective in the large number of delegates who were in attendance. It was powerful,” State-Minister Glover-Rolle added.