Antigua and Barbuda may have a population of just 80,000 and encompass a mere 170 square miles but the Caribbean nation is proving itself to be a leader in the movement to fight climate change.
It makes perfect sense that as a part of the Mesoamerican and Caribbean (MAC) region, Antigua and Barbuda would want to get in front of the climate change issue. The MAC region includes countries off the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change because so many oceanic and atmospheric processes converge in the area. Because of this, the region serves as a model for how to prevent and handle the same problems when they occur in other places. Since so many of the MAC nations lack resources like infrastructure, capital, and natural resources, it is especially urgent for governments and nongovernmental agencies in the region to take decisive action regarding climate change.
In April, Antigua and Barbuda hosted the latest meeting of the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action, a group of countries in the region that supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). All members of the group are committed to becoming or maintaining “low carbon economies.” Antigua and Barbuda’s Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph voiced his strong support for the Paris Climate Agreement at the meeting and expressed his interested in getting other Caribbean nations to assist those with less-developed institutions in doing their part to meet this goal.
Antigua and Barbuda is also the only Eastern Caribbean state to achieve accreditation from the Adaptation Fund. Under the Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Adaptation fund pays for “climate change adaptation and resilience activities” in developing countries whose geographic locations put them at the greatest risk for suffering the adverse effects of climate change. These activities are concrete solutions related to issues like water management, food security, disaster risk reduction, and coastal zone management.
The current government led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne is committed to reducing emissions by 20 percent in the next three years and has invested over US $21 million to power the VC Bird International Airport with solar energy. It will be building a solar facility later this year with US $15 million in funding from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
That the community and the government of Antigua and Barbuda have been able to balance environmental stewardship with the challenges and benefits of being a tourist destination makes it a great example for its neighbors.