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Barbados may be one of the smaller islands in the Caribbean, but it is making a big impact on the global stage as an environmentally conscious and energy efficient nation.
Currently Barbados is ranked fourth in the world in solar water heater penetration per 1,000 inhabitants and it is expected that by 2020 the island will be among the top five countries in solar photovoltaic penetration/solar energy usage per capita.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on its Web site, said Barbados is also the first country in the world in diversion of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic from the landfill—it recycles 80 per cent of the total PET.
It is against this backdrop that Bridgetown, Barbados became the centre of global celebrations for World Environment Day celebrations as the country hosted the annual Unep festivities.
Prime Minister Freundel J Stuart QC, speaking with the T&T Guardian in an exclusive interview during the celebrations last week, said his country has always taken the preservation of the environment “very serious.” He credited citizens with the success of Barbados’s “green” initiatives.
“I cannot complain about the response that we have been getting from householders and from businesses. We have passed a new Electric Light and Power act to modernise that area of our legislative experience and framework. If we continue on that march I do not think there is much to complain about,” Stuart said.
He said the Barbados government took the approach that if citizens see the public sector engaging in green initiatives then they too would be encouraged to do the same.
Government, he said, is implementing its own budgetary incentives and legislative changes to attract more people to the cause.
“Obviously if you are transitioning from the old way of thinking to the new one you cannot expect miracles overnight, but you have to hold people’s hands and walk with them and helping them to see the importance of making such a change,” Stuart said.
Solar panel water heaters can be seen on the roof of almost every home in the residential areas in Bridgetown and various parishes, which Stuart said is a testament to the population’s commitment to the environment.
Stuart said the country has been taking green initiatives in the area of energy and the construction sector.
“In every facet of our daily life we have been trying to pursue green initiatives. Small Island Developing States are particularly at risk where threats to the environment are concerned,” he said.
Barbados has also constructed boardwalks, such as the Richard Hastings boardwalk, as part of its shoreline restoration initiatives. The government is also encouraging private-sector businesses to invest in recycling plants and planning to build a green technology park.
He added that the issue of climate change and its damaging effects is of serious concern to the entire region and will be raised at the next Caricom heads of government meeting.
“We cannot ignore the effect of climate change. We are all islands and issues of sea level rise and so on must be of concern to us. So at our Caricom heads meeting we are going to paying increasing attention to that issue. We are all looking forward to going to Samoa in September for the third international conference on Small Island Developing States,” he added.