We are gathered here in Independence Square in the heart of our historic capital city of Bridgetown, to celebrate World Environment Day, under the theme ???Small Island Developing States and Climate Change??? and with the slogan ???Raise Your Voice, Not The Sea Level.???
For our visitors, the City-of-Bridgetown is home to the Mecca of West Indies Cricket, the Kensington Oval, as such I view my task this morning as to open the batting if you will, for today???s proceedings.
I hope to do justice in the same vein as the prolific Barbadian and West Indies opening batsmen Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.
I am sure that later in the proceedings when the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister steps onto this wicket he will perform with the same prolific splendor as our national hero and former West Indies great Sir Garry Sobers.It is my privilege and duty to welcome you this morning to beautiful Barbados; our island in the sun; our Gem of the Caribbean.
For those who are joining us via the world-wide-web we sincerely hope you enjoy this morning???s ceremony, and we look forward to welcoming you to the shores of our beautiful island in the near future. Historically, ladies and gentlemen, our natural environment has been the foundation for much of this country???s economic and social progress.
This can be seen from 19th century colonial times when agriculture was considered king, and the landscape was blanketed with cane fields; to the 20th century when tourism began to emerge, rival and eventually take over from sugar as the number one economic driver.
Today, tourism is Barbados??? main economic driver, although it is closely followed by financial services and the burgeoning renewable energy sector, which is poised to become a significant economic force.??But this very foundation ladies and gentlemen, is being shaken by the impacts of climate change and particularly sea level rise. Let me pause here to congratulate the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for its choice of theme for this year???s World Environment Day Celebration.
The slogan ???Raise Your Voice, Not The Sea Level??? is quite apt to Barbados??? circumstances since we believe that if we do not raise our voices even higher, eventually, we will be erased by the sea.??Recent research shows that there is no doubt that climate change will have a considerable negative effect on our economy and national development agenda. As I said before, we have to accept the reality that climate change is here to stay.
Given our circumstances, the most practical response will be to adapt. Having said that, however, I am in no way discounting the role we can, and have been playing in the area of mitigation.??In keeping with the goals of successive development plans, including the National Sustainable Development Policy, and the Barbados Growth and Development Strategy 2014-2020, Barbados remains committed to providing a comprehensive framework for the implementation of climate change-related policies, programmes and projects.
The Ministry of Environment and Drainage, which I have the honour to lead, is the National Focal Point for the United Nations??? Climate Change Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism, and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.
Consequently, we have the task of coordinating the national response to climate change.??The key mechanism for the coordination of this response is the draft National Climate Change Policy which was prepared by the National Climate Change Committee and has as its goal to:
???establish a national process for adapting to climate change effects and minimising greenhouse gas emissions over the short, medium and long term, and to do this in a manner that is coordinated and consistent with the broader sustainable development aspiration.???
Under this umbrella the Government of Barbados continues to advance its projects and programmes to address adaptation and mitigation measures.
Given the theme for World Environment Day, Ladies and Gentlemen, there are two important climate change interventions undertaken by the Government of Barbados which I must note:
1. The 2002 Coastal Infrastructure Project (CIP) and;
2. The 2011 Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme (CRMP)which are hailed as international best practices for Small Island Developing ?? States.
Those Inter-American Development Bank-supported interventions are both under the Coastal Zone Management Unit of my Ministry, and seek to preserve and manage Barbados??? coastline. Our coasts are critical economic assets and must be protected from risks associated with climate change.
The most visible manifestation of those coastal interventions has been the two coastal boardwalks: The Richard Haynes Boardwalk on the south coast, which was officially opened in 2012, and another on the west coast, which is currently under construction. The boardwalks were designed to function as climate-related coastal adaptation measures, but have reaped even more rewards as places for leisure, recreation and community for locals and tourists alike.
Ladies and gentlemen, with these few words, my short innings has come to an end. Let me again on the behalf of the Government and People of Barbados welcome you to this our beautiful island and to this ceremony. Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.