Climate Change ??? A Challenge And An Opportunity

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Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres,?? delivering the lecture. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Climate change is a real threat today, but by tomorrow it could become a potential nightmare!

But, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said while the issue of climate change could present a challenge to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Barbados, it could also present new opportunities.

These were among the talking points the Executive Secretary shared as she delivered a public lecture on the topic: Is Anything Being Done About Climate Change? at the Frank Collymore Hall last night. It was held under the patronage of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean.

Ms. Figueres said there was no doubt that climate modelling (Climate modelling – mathematical equations used to determine the Behaviour of the weather and climate) had dramatically underestimated the speed and scale of its impact. "Over the last few weeks scientists have been surprised to see the Arctic ice shrunk to its lowest ever level; shrinking by 186 square miles compared to only five years ago," she said, noting the melting of the Arctic would have an impact on ocean currents that circulate the entire globe.

She added that climate change impacts for Barbados such as sea level rise, storm surges, projected changes in temperature and rainfall, all threatened to exert foreign reserve pressure, as already high agricultural imports may have to increase to make up for a decrease in food production.

Ms. Figueres noted that in the midst of these challenges, Barbados should see the opportunities presented by climate change through the investment of renewable energy.

"Barbados has already become a world leader in climate resistant coastal development, successfully integrating disaster risk reduction along the coastal areas with climate change adaptation in a way that is a driver for economic growth," she said.

But, she highlighted the fact that Barbados’ two major economic challenges were to achieve robust economic growth and maintain stable fiscal conditions over the medium-term. "Those challenges are exacerbated by the fact that Barbados’ energy sector is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels typical of many low-lying non-oil producing islands," she indicated.

The Executive Secretary told her audience that the cost of importing oil to Barbados was currently $2.6 billion, the equivalent of six per cent of the island’s Gross Domestic Product, and the same amount invested in education.

However, she made it clear that the high dependency of Barbados on fossil fuels was no longer necessary. "The cost of renewable energy technology has come down, and the cost of fossil fuels comparatively is going up. So, they are moving in opposite directions opening up opportunities for Barbados," she said.

Noting that Barbados had made significant strides at the regional level, Ms. Figueres pointed out to attendees the country had adopted a Climate Policy at the national level which was not yet in regulation or in legislation.

The Executive Secretary said that Barbados presently generated 15 per cent of its renewable energy, but noted that the target under the new Climate Policy was to increase that figure to 29 per cent over the next 20 years, via the introduction of initiatives such as wind, biogas and waste-to-energy projects.

She added that the Climate Policy also called for a 22 per cent reduction in electricity consumption via energy efficiency, further reducing the electric bill directly to the consumer.

"While it is estimated that those measures would avoid 4.5 million tonnes of Co2 [carbon dioxide] being emitted, the fact is that the compelling reason to pursue such steps is to reduce the import of fossil fuel by 40 per cent, substantially improving the balance of trade and the fiscal deficit," Ms. Figueres stressed.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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