Fear on the environmental front

Last week, the international community’s latest gathering to identify solutions to the world’s environmental quagmire took place in Glasgow.

Small, vulnerable countries like The Bahamas are hard pressed to be excited by what the powerful agreed or better, did not agree in Glasgow.

The United States of America which had, under President Donald Trump, bailed on environmental commitments made at Paris in 2015 returned to the table under the leadership of President Joe Biden.

Other big greenhouse gas emitters, China and Russia, stayed away, however. And other significant emitters like India and Nigeria, though agreeing to work to reduce emissions so as to achieve the net zero levels set at Paris, shoved their target dates well beyond the Paris goal of 2050.

Meanwhile, countries most vulnerable to climate change are experiencing life altering environmental catastrophes whether due to sea level rise, more frequent and stronger monster storms, unseasonably heavy rainfall, catastrophic flooding or crop withering droughts.

Significant funding promised to the most vulnerable developing states to assist with climate adaptation did not meet the 2020 goal for delivery. No new global commitments emerged from COP26 to close the funding gap.

Instead, a non-binding agreement among some 450 financial institutions from some 45 countries pledged over $130 trillion of private capital to transition the global economy to net zero by 2050.

Among conclusions coming out of COP26 is an admonition for the world to act immediately and collectively to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the next eight years.

The record of our recent past does not portend well for the world achieving this new ambitious goal though the increasing adverse impact of climate change on some of the world’s most developed countries may bring heightened and continuing focus to the issue.

Prime Minister Philip Davis addressed COP26 and warned that we are “out of time”. He committed to doing what we could but underscored the limitations of small vulnerable island states like The Bahamas.

We agree with the prime minister on both scores. We fear, however, that his very clear message to the COP plenary is not as clearly reflected in his government’s environmental policy.

The prime minister wants to monetize, or perhaps better said “peddle” our country’s tremendous carbon sink capacity internationally.

Davis is no doubt aware that the world’s oceans are considered the main natural carbon sink capable of absorbing some 50 percent of carbons found in the atmosphere and further that mangroves are especially valued for absorbing and capturing carbon from the atmosphere.

Our natural carbon sink must not be used by the government as a “get out of jail free” card to ignore making hard decisions.

In opposition, Davis said his administration would support “environmentally friendly” drilling for oil in our waters, an incongruous description at best and a catastrophe waiting to happen at worse.

No doubt recognizing his previously expressed support of oil drilling as contradictory to his advocacy on climate change, the prime minister has softened his position, stating that he would be minded not to allow oil drilling, but we note the language that he used on this important issue was far from a hard ‘“no” stance.

We must not lose sight of the fact that natural carbon sinks have limits. When the ocean carbon sink’s limit is exceeded ocean acidification results, threatening the viability of all varieties of corals, algae, shellfish and molluscs. That is why we must remain vigilant to ensure that all unfriendly environmental activities, like drilling for oil, improper waste management and non-sustainable fisheries practices do not become even more serious threats to our ocean’s health.

Excellent work has been undertaken in The Bahamas to safeguard our oceans whether by enforcing environmentally enhancing fisheries regulations, expanding, and creating new marine parks and marine protected areas, rehabilitating mangroves, creating a framework to regulate the built environment most particularly along our coastlines and in our wetland and more recently banning single use plastics.

All these policies help us to enhance the health of our oceans. We recommend their continued safeguard as a first step forward in confronting the environmental quagmire. To do otherwise is too awful to contemplate.

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