Barbados will take centre stage across the global platform as it joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Environment Day on Thursday, June 5.
This forms part of a week-long celebration beginning on Sunday, June 1, which runs until Saturday, June 7, under the theme: Small Island Developing States and Climate Change.
Recognised for its contributions as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) to prevent, pre-empt and mitigate the effects of climate change, Barbados will feature prominently in the international media as its strides and achievements towards preserving the environment are highlighted across the globe.
Senior Environmental Officer in the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, Travis Sinckler, explained that Barbadians readily accepted the concept of owning their environment because they simply “had no choice”.
“We understand what it is to live with hurricanes; we understand what it is to live in terms of how we have grown our food, how we feed ourselves… We are generally very respectful of our surroundings; in terms of how we build our houses and the use of ventilation…
“I would say that we have bought in. But, given the new challenges of climate change, in terms of how we consume and our lifestyle issues, there is a need for a new thrust in how we conduct our business; in how we look after ourselves; in how we look after our children; and the types of habits that we need to cultivate if in fact we are going to be a part of the global fight to combat climate change, and to combat environmental degradation. As islanders we have no choice,” he stated.
And, Mr. Sinckler pointed out the celebration of World Environment Day was a time to give a new battle cry; a call to arms for everyone to get on board in the worldwide cause to save the planet and create a future for our children and their children.
As countries around the world focus on the theme, they will place special emphasis on the slogan: Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level.
Environmental Education Officer in the Ministry, Donna King-Brathwaite, explained that Barbados was celebrating a week of activities which will peak on World Environment Day, with Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, attending some of the events.
The highlight of the celebrations on Thursday, June 5, is the World Environment Day global event at Independence Square, The City. It will take the form of an official ceremony where Government officials and those from UNEP, including its Executive Director, will make a number of speeches on policy measures. There will also be cultural presentations during the ceremony.
“That event will be beamed across the world as is done during global celebrations everywhere else,” Mrs. King-Brathwaite stated, adding it will also attract the attention of the international media.
During the day, the UNEP Global Report: UNEP Foresight in Small Island Developing States: Identifying Emerging Environmental Issues from the Perspective of Small Island Developing States, and the Government of Barbados-UNEP Barbados Green Economy Scoping Study Final Report will be launched.
The Green Economy Scoping Study Final report is a global one and will also be launched in various regions around the world and is related to the theme of Small Island Developing States.
Deputy Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for North America, Elisabeth Gilbaud-Cox, said Barbados was chosen to host the global event for a number of reasons, and the country stands to earn considerable benefits.
“Barbados was chosen because it is doing so much. We want to showcase the incredible success stories that are taking place here in Barbados as far as the environment is concerned. There is a lot of political commitment and action on the ground to raise environmental awareness, and to do something concretely,” she said.
Mrs. Gilbaud-Cox highlighted the country’s pledge to increase the share of renewable energy across the entire island up to 29 per cent of all electricity consumption by 2029. “That is quite significant and Barbados has shown a great deal of leadership as far as climate change is concerned and how to mitigate the effects of climate change on the island,” she indicated.
The country was also chosen because of the theme for the 2014 global celebrations, and the fact that it has adopted one of the priorities for UNEP – the Green Economy.
“It is putting in place a system that would encourage the private sector and the government sector to come together and change the way we do business. There cannot continue to be business as usual, [because] there are significant ramifications all over the world,” she said.
The Deputy Director also noted that one of the benefits of having World Environment Day in Barbados was to raise the visibility of the country around the world, and capitalise on various opportunities.
“It is an opportunity for Barbadians themselves, to take into account the effects of climate change and what they as individuals can do to change that scenario… One of the benefits is raising awareness and raising action, for example, planting a tree.
“We know that deforestation is one of the key reasons for climate change and greenhouse gases… There is a statistic in the United States that says that if every American were to change their regular light bulb, to an environment-friendly light bulb, it would be equivalent to removing 800 000 cars off the road. So, when one seems to think that as an individual this problem is too broad, too big, too imaginable, when we use statistics like these, it demonstrates that we as individuals can make a difference,” she stated.
Making reference to the slogan: Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level, the Deputy Director stated that residents of countries could raise their voices in the way they behaved at home; in the way they voted; in the way they made decisions about the car they bought; the amount of water used to brush teeth or to take a shower and the type of light bulb used.
“It is important to understand that all seven billion of us on this planet have a role to play in addressing the environmental issues facing the planet. There is only one planet, and the environment is the only issue that every single person on this earth has a stake in whether or not we are aware of it,” Mrs. Gilbaud-Cox indicated.
She added that there were also benefits at the regional level where decisions made by the Barbados Government were replicated elsewhere. “[So] it is an opportunity for Bajans to take pride in their own accomplishments and to know that they have been recognised by the global community for their efforts,” Mrs. Gilbaud-Cox stated.
World Environment Day was first celebrated in 1972 to raise awareness about environmental issues and raise environmental action. It is a time when the attention of countries across the world is focused on one central theme.