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Bahamas PM says COP26 has ‘no teeth’ and Boris Johnson’s language doesn’t ‘convey seriousness’ of climate crisis

Written by on 12/11/2021

The leader of one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations has told Sky News that the commitments at the Glasgow summit have “no teeth” and are just “aspirational”.

In a damning assessment of world leaders’ pledges and progress at the COP26 summit, Philip Davis, prime minister of the Bahamas, said: “I invited them to be brave, to be courageous and act because, as you said, it’s a lot of fancy words.

“They don’t seem to have any teeth to them. It’s aspirational.”

Mr Davis was speaking on his return to the Bahamas from Glasgow where he said he tried to inspire world leaders to act as the summit enters its final scheduled day.

Prime Minister of the Bahamas Philip Davis
Image: ‘Progress is stagnant’

Mr Davis said: “Well, you know, if you look at the language of the draft document, and it hasn’t yet been finalised, those are what I call aspirational terms: ‘recommitting’, ‘resetting’… we’ve been there! I mean, this is the 26th COP!”

Asked if he saw the summit as a failure, the prime minister said: “Let me put it this way: I don’t want to say success or failure. What I want to say is: progress has been stagnant. Progress is stagnant, and I hope that we will get out of this quagmire.”

Beyond the picture-postcard image of the Bahamas, it is an island nation on the brink.

More on Bahamas

Despite contributing just 0.01% to global greenhouse gas emissions, it is experiencing a near-term existential threat from climate change.

Eighty percent of the land across the archipelago is 3ft or less above sea level.

As a member of the so-called Small Island Developing States (SIDS), it has long campaigned for more global action to tackle the causes of climate change and funding to mitigate its effects.

The Bahamas
Image: 80% of the land across the archipelago is 3ft or less above sea level

New analysis has suggested that existing projections for sea-level rise impacts on the Bahamas by 2050 underestimate the extent of land loss.

New topographical maps show larger portions of the nations’ islands are at risk.

Many parts of the Bahamas are impoverished and locals are convinced the weather is ever more extreme.

Hurricane Dorian in 2019 was one of the most powerful ever recorded. Two years on, they still don’t know how many people died.

“It’s worrying for me because our islands are being swallowed up right now by rising sea levels. And it has to stop,” Mr Davis said.

“If we’re lucky, we may become refugees. If you’re not lucky, you’ll be swallowed up into rising sea levels or wiped away by more and more intense storms.”

An aerial photo shows the aftermath of the Hurricane Dorian damage over an unspecified location in the Bahamas, in this September 2, 2019 photo. Picture taken September 2, 2019. Courtesy Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Image: Hurricane Dorian in 2019 was one of the most powerful ever recorded

The prime minister explained that among his fears is the non-binding nature of the pledges made at COP26. They are not promises, and they could be scrapped as fast as governments change.

“I think political change has been an enemy to success. And we need to find a way and a mechanism to ensure that that political change will no longer retard any progress.”

Asked if he was concerned that even limited pledges made in Glasgow could be undone quickly, he said: “Yes. Of course, at the end of the day is the attitude of leaders…”

Prime Minister of the Bahamas with Prince William at COP26
Image: Prime Minister of the Bahamas with Prince William at COP26

And he had a word on language too, with a reflection on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s repeated football analogies for humanity’s struggle with climate change.

“We all have a means of messaging and conveying our feelings to the general public. That’s the way he’s adopted to do it,” he said.

“I may not choose that way because, for me, enough is enough. This is serious business, and I think in our effort to convey the seriousness of the times and the consequences that could befall us all need serious language.”

As the talks entered the final stretch, COP26 President Alok Sharma made an urgent appeal to find an agreement to tackle global warming.

“We still have a monumental challenge ahead of us, but collectively we have no choice but to rise to that challenge and strain every sinew to achieve a timely outcome that we can all be proud of,” he said.

“Because ultimately, this outcome, whatever it is, will belong to all of us.”

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