Thank you, everyone.
It’s wonderful to be here for this major initiative, which has the potential both to save and transform the lives of the Bahamian people.
Given the events of the past several months, it sometimes feels like we live in an Age of Despair, pre-occupied with and frustrated by, all the many things that we cannot do. And so it’s especially wonderful to be here to focus together on what we can do.
We choose to keep our emphasis on action.
The people who like to focus on what can’t be done – they’re at a different gathering, we hope.
We’re here because there is a lot we can do to close the gap in climate finance – and we invite you to be a part of it.
I grew up on Cat Island, a small and very beautiful island. Come find me after this event so I can tell you about our rake ‘n scrape music, our sailing regattas, and our warm communities.
But for now, let me tell you about one feature of Cat Island which makes it different from the other 699 islands in our archipelago: towering Mount Alvernia, which boasts an elevation of…not-quite 210 feet.
In truth, a little closer to 207 feet.
But I know you won’t mind if I round up a little, considering that Mount Alvernia is the highest point in The Bahamas.
The rest of Cat Island — and the rest of my country – lies within a few feet of sea level.
Our islands are made of porous limestone, which means that as sea levels rise, water will not only flood over our shores, but come up through the ground beneath us as well.
We are right in the strike zone of Hurricane Alley – and we have been hit by four major storms – Category 4 and Category 5 — just within the last few years.
Every nation faces significant climate risks, and leaders are looking to scientists – and insurance companies — to understand their short, medium, and long-term risks.
In The Bahamas, we are praying we make it to the medium and long-term.
But we’re not just praying.
We’re working with other small island nations to fight for reductions in carbon emissions.
We’re also strengthening our ability to respond to hurricanes.
One of our responses has been the launch of a National Youth Guard, so that young Bahamians can work alongside our disaster response teams and our national security forces in dealing with the passage of storms.
A cruel irony is that those four massive hurricanes in under ten years cost us billions – leaving us without the fiscal space we need to get ready for the next storms.
Over a third of our national debt results from the impact of hurricanes.
As well as the direct expenditure, think of the opportunity cost involved.
This is money that could have been used to build badly-needed hospitals, schools, roads and so on.
It’s a kind of double-whammy!
Topping the lists of countries most vulnerable to climate change makes borrowing more expensive, too.
Every single day, we are paying: both for the hurricanes that we’ve already suffered through, as well the ones yet to come.
In addition, the designation of our nation as a high-income country, leaves us unable to access fair and concessional financing.
And we desperately need financing to support our efforts in recovery and adaptation.
So we are trapped in a cycle in which our debt-servicing obligations, forces under-investment in our ability to make ourselves more resilient.
Friends, we urgently need new and creative climate finance solutions.
That’s why we’re so excited about The Bahamas Sustainable Investment Programme.
Through this initiative, we are going to survive an era of super-charged storms, by creating super-charged, win-win investment partnerships.
Along with our strategic advisors, Resilience Capital Ventures, we will work with regional and global capital market leaders to underwrite and put in place an innovative financing facility.
We aim to secure a facility of $500 million US dollars.
Our priorities for this fund include spending to make our infrastructure more climate-resilient, our transition to clean energy, conservation of our coastal zones, reduction in biodiversity loss, regenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration, and participation in natural asset-backed carbon credit programmes.
Blended finance is a smart way to close the climate financing gap at a time when solutions cannot be postponed.
We will not despair.
Let me tell you another reason why I’m optimistic.
Consider this: another way to say “small island nation”, is to say “large ocean state”.
Our country’s seagrass meadows, which cover an astonishing 97,000 square kilometres, appear to be absorbing more carbon than the Amazon Rainforest.
We have been mapping our seagrasses with help not only from scientists, but also tiger sharks.
Tiger sharks are a critical part of our underwater surveying team.
That’s right – they swim through our waters wearing cameras and sending back data points.
It’s always good to have apex predators on your side.
Those sharks are going to help us become the first country in the world to issue Blue Carbon Credits.
So as you can see, small countries can be big pioneers.
My government and the people of The Bahamas have already engaged with the Clinton Global Initiative on this Commitment to Action.
We’re honoured to be part of that extraordinary community of change-makers.
And so today, Ladies and Gentlemen, here at COP28, we hope you will join us!
Whether you partner with us on funding and financing, or by providing technical and advisory expertise, the door for collaboration is wide open.
There is indeed, a path forward that will give my country many more tomorrows.
We invite you to be part of it.