It is a pleasure to be here with you for the annual Eco Schools Bahamas coordinators workshop, particularly during a year of not one, but two very special anniversaries.
We are celebrating fifty years of independence for The Bahamas, and we are also celebrating thirty years of conservation and education efforts led by BREEF.
BREEF’s comprehensive approach to protecting our environment – from offering policy recommendations to engaging in hands-on restoration work and collaborating with the international community – has proven invaluable to conservation efforts.
I commend you for helping to preserve our natural environment for generations of Bahamians to come.
I also applaud the role you play in galvanising our youth and teaching them the principles of stewardship. Soon enough, a new generation will be at the helm, and it is up to us, the leaders of today, to empower the changemakers of tomorrow.
My administration is committed to working collaboratively with BREEF and other environmentally conscious groups to protect our environment and make The Bahamas more climate resilient.
Last month was the hottest September – the fourth consecutive month of such unprecedented heat – putting 2023 firmly on track to be the hottest year ever documented. Global temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, and hurricanes are more frequent and more destructive.
Action is urgently needed, and I have made it my mission to lead this charge.
In our Blueprint for Change, this administration promised to “put measures in place to adapt and mitigate in the face of climate change.”
This has begun with our national energy strategy, which is already being rolled out through the solarisation of our Family Islands. A Bahamas predominantly powered by renewable energy is our long-term goal.
We have also advocated boldly on the world stage, drawing attention to the unique vulnerability of Small Island Developing States in the face of climate change and the need for greater resources to be allocated to countries like The Bahamas.
This is not just a matter of relying on the charity of the world’s superpowers. They created this issue while small nations like The Bahamas have contributed the least to this problem; yet, we are facing the most dire consequences. Our calls for more resources are about climate justice – giving the most vulnerable nations a fighting chance to respond to the threat of a problem created by others. We will not let up on our efforts until real action is taken.
As I made clear last week at the UNFCCC meeting of Caribbean leaders in Grenada, we will continue to call on our partners in the North to deliver on the commitment they made at COP15 in Copenhagen to mobilise $100 billion per annum in climate finance for the developing world.
To date, they have yet to reach this target – and the truth is that $100 billion annually is merely a fraction of what is needed for the developing world to make the necessary investments in climate resilience.
In the face of this inaction, we cannot afford to stand idly by. The pain of Hurricane Dorian is still fresh in our minds, and the climate crisis is only intensifying.
We have decided to take matters into our own hands. Last month, I travelled to New York to take part in the Clinton Global Initiative.
At that forum, I announced a new initiative, The Bahamas Sustainable Investment Programme or “BSIP” – a three-year economic and investment programme that is aligned with our Paris Agreement pledges and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. BSIP is targeting $500 million in funding that will go directly into building a more climate-resilient future for The Bahamas. We fully expect this fund to serve as a model for the entire region.
This is about more than generating finances, it is about developing a practical pathway to climate justice and global equity.
The government, in collaboration with the private sector and civil society, will tackle the challenges posed by the climate crisis head-on. Principled and impactful solutions are out there, we simply need to seize them and set them in motion.
With BSIP, we are doing just that.
Looking ahead, one of the most pressing issues for our region in the lead-up to COP28 continues to be Loss and Damage.
The landmark decision at COP27 to create a Global Loss & Damage Fund was a major triumph for islands in the Caribbean and beyond. We have fought for decades for a fund like this.
Caribbean voices, our voices, played a pivotal role in achieving this significant milestone. Just last year, Caribbean leaders came together at the inaugural Small Island Developing States High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change, held right here in Nassau. Out of that came the fight for a Loss & Damage fund. And we will continue to fight to ensure that this fund comes to full fruition.
These are big goals, but small steps are just as important. Whether we adopt lifestyle changes, spread awareness, or engage in advocacy, we can all make strides toward achieving a more sustainable future. We are all environmental stakeholders. So, let’s all take a stand wherever we are and when we can.
I wish you all the best in your ongoing efforts to advance sustainable practices in our educational institutions and beyond. Take today’s session as an opportunity to dialogue, to connect, and to re-commit to the principles on which Eco Schools Bahamas was founded.
Congratulations on your accomplishments and keep up the good work.
Thank you, and may God bless and keep you all.