NASSAU, The Bahamas, Monday January 14, 2019 – At the end of 2018, we all watched as tensions mounted at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is a yearly conference held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to discuss and evaluate global efforts to address climate change.
At this meeting, scientists urged heads of governments and ministers to do more to reduce their emissions and to seriously tackle climate targets as they negotiated guidelines for the Paris Agreement signed in 2015. Sadly, in 2018, some of the big players in the developed world conducted business as usual, which resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, taking us further away from meeting the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C or “well below” 2°C. In an article published by the United Nations, national interests and the value of scientific data remained at the forefront of climate target discussions in Poland, which may result in a major setback for developing and least developed countries.
Despite having a seat at the table, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) again found themselves asserting their vulnerabilities and challenges with adapting and responding to climate change—even after the world watched as hurricanes ransacked our islands in 2017. Limited by the lack of financial brawn to command our stance, we have always remained on the margins of global decisions, often feeling powerless and idle.
Although 2018 had its share of setbacks, scientists are calling 2019 the year of climate action. With regional focus set on improving community resilience, providing a clean and reliable source of energy, improving food security and developing climate-related policies, there is also a need to concentrate efforts on increasing public education as means of influencing pro-environmental behaviour.
This year, we must change the narrative and have down-to-earth conversations about the environmental problems we are currently facing. If we are serious about preparing future generations with the tools needed to tackle today’s’ environmental issues, then we need to introduce climate science into our school curriculum at all levels. We also need to spend time with vulnerable communities to explain exactly what climate change is and how it will impact their financial status, food, water resources and homes.
We can no longer treat climate change as an isolated issue that resurfaces at the start of every hurricane season. This is our reality! How we interact with our environment daily will have lasting impacts on future generations’ ability to respond and prepare.
It is, therefore, my hope that we use this year to expand educational outreach efforts to those who stand to lose the most. It is only through education and personable conversations that we can begin to change mindsets and influence pro-environmental behaviour which will contribute to government and regional efforts to build resilient communities.
Kendria Ferguson is a Sustainability Consultant based in Nassau, The Bahamas. She holds a Masters of Arts in Sustainable Energy from the University of South Florida and is an accredited Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate (GA) professional. Her work focuses on sustainable development and climate change adaptation and resilience in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).