Hurricane Dorian opened eyes to the effects of climate change, says Bahamas PM

The Prime Minister of Bahamas, Hubert Minnis

The 2020 edition of the Caribbean Travel Marketplace opened in the Bahamas on Tuesday night with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis saying the Bahamas has had to rethink its global responsibilities as a voice in combating climate change following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian when it ploughed through the archipelago on September 1 last year.

“The Bahamas as part of CARICOM will continue to raise our voice in addressing the global climate emergency.”

— Minnis

“Hurricane Dorian has forced us to rethink a number of matters that we have often ignored or not fully addressed, making it a watershed moment in the truest and most unfortunate sense of that phrase,” Minnis told the more than 700 delegates attending the three-day event organised by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).

More vulnerable

At least 70 people were killed and more than 200 others missing when the Category 5 storm hit the chain of islands causing damage estimated at US$3.4 billion.

Minnis said that coastal tide levels are now persistently higher than they have ever been and that while Caribbean countries contribute little to the cause of climate change, they are far more vulnerable than most other countries of the world.

“More carbon dioxide goes into the oceans, more acid is produced and coral and marine life are at greater peril of being destroyed,” he told delegates, adding that “the Bahamas as part of CARICOM will continue to raise our voice in addressing the global climate emergency.”

Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc in the Bahamas last year.

Single-use plastics

Minnis said that at the same time, “we must be seen to be physicians healing ourselves through various national and regional programmes” and urged the region to continue to combat pollution, including the effects of single-use plastics which are clogging oceans, killing marine life and threatening human health.

“I note the aggressive and ambitious programme just announced by the People’s Republic of China, the second-largest economy in the world to ban single-use plastics,” Minnis said, adding that Hurricane Dorian has forced the Bahamas to find new ways to build and where possible, retrofit homes, buildings and power and water infrastructure that are far more resilient to both wind and surging waters.

“We must rethink how we ensure the enforcement of building codes and we must rethink our regulations regarding how close we will allow any construction on our shorelines,” he said, noting that his administration is receiving scores of recommendations for review and consideration from both international and local experts and companies.