By Sheria Brathwaite
Founder of the Ashley Lashley Foundation Ashley Lashley is calling on the government to implement a multi-sector approach to address the issue of climate change. At the same time, she is encouraging young people to take part in more climate mitigation efforts.
Speaking at Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the Barbados Youth Climate Action Summit and Expo being held in conjunction with the Regional Conference of Youth, at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Lashley said that while there has been some effort to address the issue, more can be done from a government standpoint.
“When it comes to energy conservation, Barbados has made strides reducing residential electricity consumption by approximately 40 per cent. But this is just the beginning. We need more of these efforts to drive lasting change. Preserving our oceans is paramount. We must designate more of our exclusive economic zones as marine protected areas to safeguard our sea’s biodiversity. Sustainable tourism is a goal we’re striving for eco friendly accommodations and the conservation of natural resources are our way forward. We need more of these practices to ensure that our tourism industry treads lightly on our environment,” she said.
“Our food security is crucial. By supporting local agriculture, reducing food imports and promoting sustainable farming, we can create a circular economy that bolsters our food security. When you consider that $817 million has been spent on food and beverage imports in 2022, it’s clear that we have lots of work to do.”
Lashley, saying that “littering in 2023 remains a problem”, stressed the importance of Barbadians playing a role in protecting the environment.
“The presence of littering in our communities reminds us that real change goes beyond policies. It demands individual and collective responsibility. Our call to action extends to every individual and indeed to our government and our leaders. We are demanding a multisectoral approach that transcends boundaries and sectors. It’s a collective effort that spans education awareness policy changes and sustainable practices across all sectors,” she stressed.
Referencing a recent youth climate knowledge and perception survey, Lashley said several young people wanted to learn more about environmental policies and their role in climate action. She said they were anxious about the uncertainties ahead.
However, she said only a few were participating in national eco-friendly activities and she encouraged more young people to get involved.
“We need more of you, our young people, leading the way voluntarily for sustainability . . . . We need more of our peers actively promoting sustainability, going green and addressing environmental issues . . . . It’s a call for leadership from you, the youth of Barbados, to shape your future actively,” she said.
Lashley added that Caribbean governments and regional organisations must also work together in climate mitigation efforts, adding that “the climate crisis knows no borders and neither should our actions”.
“Let’s seek partnerships with our fellow Caribbean nations, share knowledge and resources and innovative solutions to our region, [and] to our government,” she urged.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to the Eastern Caribbean Pieter Bult said that young people had ideas on how the region and, by extension, the world should deal with climate change and should be encouraged to share them.
“There’s one resource that we have actually failed to tap into altogether, which is you, our young generation, our youth, our children . . . . I think we should start engaging young people – children from the earliest age possible – in the challenges that we collectively face as a community and challenges that we collectively have not been able to address so far.
“The new ways of thinking, the new solutions, the new actions will actually come from you and for that to happen, we need events like this. We need to bring young people together to debate the challenges to come up with solutions and ways forward,” he said.