Fellow Barbadians, it is my distinct pleasure as always to address you on the occasion of World Environment Day 2014. Partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we are fortunate to be hosting the celebration of this Global event right here on our shores. This is a first for a Small Island Developing State and an occasion of which we should be proud.
This year???s celebration coincides with 2014 being recognised as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and is being celebrated under the theme ???SIDS and Climate Change ??? raise your voice, not the sea level???.
This is particularly significant for us since SIDS and the lesser developed countries are universally recognised as those most vulnerable to the impacts occasioned by a highly variable climate, global warming and climate change. Less we forget, this applies to 52 countries that comprise the ???Alliance of Small Island States??? (AOSIS), with a combined population of about 62.3 million people.
Internationally, Barbados and the AOSIS community have been raising their voices within the ongoing negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to define the post-2015 global climate change response framework.
Collectively, we have been calling for a regime that soberly reflects upon the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and appropriately targeted at minimising the immediate and long-term climate impacts projected for those countries that are most vulnerable.
Specifically, this advocates the reduction in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a point that ensures that the mean global temperature increase is maintained below 20 centigrade, as well as the provision of a fitting mix of financial, technological and other support to developing countries to enable implementation of social and economic structural adjustments required for sustained growth in a climate changed future. Sadly, negotiations are not proceeding at a pace that is commensurate with the urgency desired by SIDS territories.
The impacts of an increasingly variable climate are presently being experienced by SIDS and represent a clear and present danger to our sustainable development aspirations. As an example, the current drought that we are experiencing further compounds our water scarcity challenges and the implications that such holds for the productive sector of our economy and general welfare. Our other CARICOM neighbours are also facing similar challenges.
Raising our voice internationally also requires us to lead by example. In this regard, Barbados??? experience with solar water heating since the 1970???s is legendary and well recognised globally. It is estimated that this has realised in excess of US$130 million in energy savings. Our work since the 1950???s to manage the agricultural and land degradation concerns in the Scotland District, as well as in the protection and management of our groundwater resources over the course of our development history, are also commendable and worthy of praise.
Barbados has committed itself to the pursuit of a Green Economy, which we have defined as:??An integrated production, distribution consumption and waste assimilation system that at its core, reflects the fragility of our small island ecosystems as the basis for natural resources protection policy intervention, business and investment choice, human development programming and for the facilitation of export markets development strategies.
Two of the more recent initiatives that fit with this aspiration and our response to the climate change challenge reside in the areas of coastal zone protection and in the efforts to transform the energy sector.
The studies and infrastructural work at Welches, Rockley, Holetown and elsewhere, undertaken by the Coastal Zone Management Unit, are well known nationally and regionally. This programme addresses our vulnerability to coastal erosion, flooding and sea level rise and the risk that these pose to the many homes, infrastructure and natural heritage assets resident in the immediate coastal zone area.
The more recent activities targeted at the transformation of the Energy Sector respond to the national policy to generate 29% of Barbados??? electricity from renewable sources by 2029, as well as realise a 22% savings in electricity consumption through the use of energy efficiency measures.
Among others, this new and exciting era has thus far resulted in??the revision of the Light and Power Act to allow for the production of electricity from micro-generation sources;??the emergence of a Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) and several small renewable energy entrepreneurs; and??private sector facilitating mechanisms to enable the average citizen to become net producers of electricity from renewable sources.
I have all confidence that these measures will enable us to meet our 2029 targets which may be verified as measurable contributions to the Global GHG emissions reduction imperative.??As a country with a small vulnerable economy, raising your voice nationally is also prudent and requires each and every citizen to be engaged with the Green Economy pursuit.
In this regard, I encourage you to make yourself aware and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to address issues of resource use efficiency, pollution control and among others, green business facilitation that would aid you in personal investment and other relevant decisions.
You are also encouraged to raise your voice in partnership with the Government as we seek to weather the myriad social, economic and environmental challenges that presently befall us with a clear focus on emerging as a more resilient and prosperous society. This, I believe, would provide a sound testament of the leadership that a small developing country can demonstrate to the world.??I thank you.