Hello to all One Young World Ambassadors,
It is an honor and a pleasure to speak with you today.
I always feel a little more youthful whenever I get to address an audience of young people.
Maybe it’s the contagious passion and energy, or maybe it’s the many bright minds brimming with optimism.
We often say that the youth are the future. But youth are also our present. Right now, young people are driving change all around the world, as leaders and innovators in just about every field imaginable.
Gathered among you are status-quo breakers and paradigm shifters. You are the trendsetters, who will guide this world to a better, brighter future.
I say to all of you young leaders and visionaries, the world needs you to speak up and step up more than ever. The UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, is coming up, as global leaders prepare to discuss measures to get all countries closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
As the leader of a small island state, and a particularly low-lying one at that, climate change represents the greatest existential threat that The Bahamas has ever faced. That threat materialized two years ago, in the form of terrible Hurricane Dorian, which left a path of death and destruction in its wake.
We also experienced major hurricanes in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Lives and livelihoods have been lost and our fear is that there is no end in sight. This trend will increase as long as global greenhouse gas emissions remain unchanged.
So, when I speak of the threat of climate change, I am not talking about some far-off catastrophic event that will occur decades from now; countries like mine are already experiencing those disasters today.
And Hurricanes are far from the only threat that climate change poses. An estimated 15% percent of our national GDP and 11% of our people are threatened by the accompanying rise in sea level. Our marine life and fisheries are also at risk, as climate change threatens the survival of critical marine habitats like coral reefs.
We need big, radical changes to abate this trend and save countries like The Bahamas from a perilous fate. Every coastal region in the world has been, or will be, severely impacted by climate change in some way.
The world is running out of time if we wish to halt the worst effects of climate change. The summer of 2021 was the hottest on record. As hot as this summer has been, many predict that it may be the coolest summer we experience for the rest of our lives – if decisive action is not taken.
Each year, as we miss global targets for emissions, we always recommit and promise to do better the following year. There seems to be a running assumption that there is always another chance to turn it all around. Unfortunately, the day is fast approaching when we will be out of extra chances. When it comes to climate change, indecision and procrastination are luxuries we cannot afford.
The time for action is now.
While we may be seeing the effects of climate change to some extent today, it is your generation that will bear the brunt of the impact in coming decades. That is not an outcome that any of us wants to live through. We must take immediate action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and meet the necessary global targets to achieve a climate-neutral world within the next thirty years.
Small Island Developing States like The Bahamas, despite our negligible contributions to total greenhouse gas emissions, will be the most severely impacted by climate change. We will advocate for stronger global standards, but we cannot do it alone. We must all unite and do our part in advocating for change.
Change can come in the form of policies in the expected areas like the shipping industry, aviation, and deforestation. But helpful reforms can also be found in unexpected places.
Take food waste, for example. Food waste accounts for an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – that’s more than the airline industry. Yet, it is rarely discussed within the climate change discussion.
We could make a considerable dent in emissions just by eliminating the amount of waste produced at our dinner tables and in our local restaurants, farms, and factories.
Of course, my objective is not to single out any single industry, but to point out the need for widespread, multi-sectoral reforms for us to have a real shot at halting and reversing the effects of climate change. We must explore every viable solution.
I implore you to join me in spreading the word about the urgent need for global climate action, and I am extending a standing offer for One Young World to hold a Youth Ambassador Summit here in The Bahamas to further discuss this issue.
I challenge you to speak with young leaders here in The Bahamas to gain insight into their unique experiences and better understand the threat we are facing. Let’s engage in a two-way dialogue to discuss our ideas on addressing climate change and other issues facing global youth.
With young, vibrant leaders like you focused on this issue, I am confident we can find a solution to this crisis.