Bahamas readies for climate change
Sunday, March 15, 2009
NASSAU, Bahamas - The Bahamas is moving to put in place measures to help its most vulnerable islands adjust to what one government official calls a possible "death sentence for small islands".
Phillip Weech, director of the Bahamas Environmental Science and Technology Commission, said the government was working on an energy policy, while exploring alternative sources of energy, as well as more sustainable tourism options in a bid to prepare the more than 700 islands for the possible effects of climate change
Bahamas has no national energy policy... We have prepared it and are doing public consultations to take it forward," he said.
Weech was addressing a workshop put on by the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to discuss the feasibility of doing a review of the Economics of Climate Change in the Caribbean, which is regarded as one of the regions that will be worst affected by climate change.
Weech noted that the Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable island countries in the region because of how flat it is.
"We are not a high island country like Jamaica or anywhere else. Anywhere on the Bahamian islands is about 1.5m above sea level. We are almost like pancakes," he said while adding that the flatness of the islands increased its vulnerability to sea level rise.
Weech added that other vulnerabilities such as the high dependence on imported energy and food, as well as the increasing costs of these commodities are areas requiring significant changes.
"Adaptation is a priority for us, but we have to do it in light of our circumstance. We have to diversify and do so in renewable technology such as using wind, energy and ocean thermal energy conversion," he said. "We have to look at our hotel sector. There is new technology in Paradise Island, which allows you to dim lights and reduce electricity use based on their occupation level. But most of our old hotels have nothing like this, so the hotels have to look at having energy-efficient systems."
The Bahamas, Weech said, is already doing the following to address climate change:
. establishing terrestrial and marine reserves as well as parks and protected areas across the islands;
. reducing emissions from land degradation and deforestation (REDD)
. fulfilling obligations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through assessment reports; and
. maintaining engagement with regional bodies, including the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Alliance of Small Island Developing States.
His presentation was well received and the director of ECLAC's Caribbean sub-region, Neil Pierre, speaking at the workshop, said that the feedback from the Bahamas workshop would feed into the feasibility studies being planned for the Caribbean.
"Actions must be based on informed economic decision-making. The RECCC (Review of the Economics of Climate Change in the Caribbean) will give policymakers this," he said. "RECCC will arm policymakers with high quality information and informed analysis so that they can effectively play their part at an international level."
The RECCC Study is expected to be done over a two-year period. The first phase (September 2008 - March 2009) has already started, with preliminary workshops on climate change in the Caribbean.
"We hope that this project will arrive at some preliminary findings to inform Caribbean governments at the Copenhagen negotiations (set for December 2009)," said Pierre.
- Panos Caribbean