The world's attention turned to the Caribbean on 1 June, as week-long World Environment Day celebrations kicked off with a religious service, which was offered in observance of WED and in recognition of the 20th Anniversary of the First Conference of Small Island Development States.
Dr. the Hon. Denis S. Lowe (R), M.P., Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Barbados, speaks with Naysan Sahba (L), UNEP Director of Communications as Travis Sinkler (C), Senior Environmental Officer at the Ministry of Environment and Drainage looks on after the religious service to kick off WED celebrations.
This year, the WED theme is Raise your Voice, Not the Sea Level,a campaign which celebrates the remarkable resilience of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to the impacts of climate change.
The service took place at the Cathedral of St. Michael and All Angels, in Bridgetown. In attendance were His Excellency Sir Elliott Belgrave, Governor-General of Barbados, Dr. the Hon. Denis S. Lowe, M.P., Minister of the Environment and Drainage and Senator the Hon. Darcy W. Boyce, Minister of Energy, Immigration, Telecommunications and Invest Barbados .The United Nations Environment Programme was represented by Naysan Sahba, Director of Communications and Public Information.
Home to 62.3 million people, the world's 52 SIDS are custodians of 30 per cent of the world's 50 largest exclusive economic zones and play an important role in protecting the oceans.
SIDS contribute little to climate change - emitting less than one per cent of global greenhouse gases. However, they suffer disproportionately from its effects due to their small size, remote locations and low economic resilience. Research shows that by 2100, global warming could lead to a sea-level rise of up to two meters, making many SIDS, including the Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu uninhabitable.
The government and people of Barbados, a Caribbean island at the cutting edge of the fight against the impacts of climate change, are issuing a call to action to people across the world to raise their voices in support of SIDS. Barbados is leading the SIDS green economy transition with pioneering initiatives such as its Solar Water Heater Program which has netted energy savings of between US$135.5 and US$137 million since it was first launched in the 1970s.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "Every year, on June 5th, millions of people across the planet celebrate World Environment Day - coming together at community, national and regional level to promote positive action on the most-pressing environmental challenges of our day. This year's global host for World Environment Day is Barbados, one of many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) facing multi-dimensional issues that require integrated global action."
"SIDS contribute little to the problem of climate change - the combined annual carbon dioxide output of these nations accounts for less than one per cent of global emissions. Yet they are especially vulnerable to the changing climate due to their small size, narrow resource base, susceptibility to natural hazards, low economic resilience, and limited for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change."
"As one of the smallest independent states in the world, with a total land area of just 431 km2, Barbados faces many of the challenges outlined above, but it is not passively accepting its fate. Barbados has long been a leader in the Caribbean region in the Green Economy approach. Its current National Strategic Plan (2006-2025) clearly identifies "Building a Green Economy: Strengthening the Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment" as one its key aims," he added.
Actor Ian Somerhalder will be visiting Barbados to lend his support to the celebrations.