THE College of the Bahamas’ Climate Change Initiative group is calling on The Bahamas to forcefully put forward its position on protecting the country’s rights and interest in global climate change negotiation meetings.
CCI members Lisa Benjamin and Dr Adelle Thomas made the plea following reports that 2014 was recorded as the hottest year since temperature recordings began in the 1880s.
They noted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections that by 2100, there will be significant changes to the environment including higher sea levels, more intense extreme events, changes in patterns of precipitation and warmer temperatures.
Speaking at COB’s School of Social Sciences Diners’ Debate at Mojo’s restaurant last weekend, Ms Benjamin noted that this was a serious cause for concern.
“People often ask about climate change and after a quarter of a century of negotiations at the international level which we (the Bahamas) have been involved in since the very beginning, a lot of that information has not been translated back to the Bahamian public,” she said.
The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, she emphasised, “is the main negotiating forum for the world to come together and discuss and negotiate climate change.”
Speaking at the United Nations Climate Summit In New York City in September, 2014, Prime Minister Perry Christie urged developed nations to honour their commitment to pay $100bn a year by 2020 for climate finance support as he outlined The Bahamas’ vulnerability to climate change.
He said because of The Bahamas’ vulnerability to climate change “we qualify for funding and expect our fair share”.
Mr Christie added that despite the government’s best efforts, emissions into the atmosphere continue to grow and threaten “the very existence of the Bahamas”.
Last month, representatives from over 190 countries descended on Lima, Peru, to participate in the latest meeting of the conference of parties of the UNFCCC and the meeting of parties of the Kyoto Protocol.
The meetings were primarily designed to construct a framework that will be developed into a new legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force, at the next conference of parties meeting in Paris this year where the agreement would become effective in 2020 and is the next generation of a global climate deal.
The new 2015 instrument is envisaged to be more inclusive in its remit by covering emissions from both industrialised and large developing countries. Many parties believe that in order to be more inclusive, “bottom up”, or unilateral national emissions commitments from countries would be the best way to proceed.
The United States is reportedly not keen to agree to legally binding emissions targets as binding targets would be unlikely to be approved by their Senate.
“The problem for small island developing states is that ‘bottom up’ national commitments are likely to lack ambition, and if not legally binding, there exists no mechanism to force larger emitters to make progressive emission cuts,” she added.
“As countries continue to negotiate through 2015, it will be important for The Bahamas to engage with the issue of climate change and the international negotiations, and forcefully put forward our positions as a climate vulnerable population to seek to ensure that our rights and interests are duly reflected in the Paris 2015 agreement.”
Dr Thomas noted that in the interim, The Bahamas needs to play its part in the fight against global warming “through mitigation and adaptation.”
“Mitigation means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases so we can do this through using things like cleaner forms of energy and through less deforestation which will help with regulating the climate,” she said.
“We can also adapt and that means to anticipate what changes to the climate are going to be and taking action to reduce those damages. So if we know that the sea level is going to rise, then perhaps we should not build a multi-billion dollar establishment right on the coastline, right? That would be adaptation…hint.”
“What’s very important,” Dr Thomas stressed, “is that The Bahamas has been recognised by the IPCC and by many reports as one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to climate change.
“We’re in the top 10 largely due to our environmental characteristic but also to demographic and economic characteristics. For example, when the ocean reaches a certain temperature, then we have something called coral bleaching.”
“If we have healthy corals, when the ocean gets too warm then they bleach out and they become white and they die off. When they die off, the corals are no longer able to provide us with protection from the waves coming in.”
Ms Benjamin and Dr Thomas are both assistant professors of The College of The Bahamas and are also members of the Public Education and Outreach Subcommittee of the National Climate Change Committee.
Ms Benjamin teaches an LLB programme and holds membership in the Compliance Committee (Facilitative Branch) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Dr Thomas teaches geography and was a contributor to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
Stephen Aranha, assistant professor and chair of the School of Social Sciences, chaired Thursday’s Diners’ Debate.
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