Barbados’ Prime Minister Has a Message for Rich Countries

In the battle to slow down climate change, countries like Barbados are on the “front line,” says Prime Minister Mia Mottley. It is being threatened by increasing sea levels and severe weather events, such as hurricanes, which are becoming more frequent and intense.

However, adapting to climate change will require money. Barbados has a 144% national debt ratio. Mottley has made tackling the country’s debt a priority, and she negotiated a debt restructuring for Barbados shortly after taking office in 2018 that included “natural-­disaster clauses” to allow a break in interest repayments in the aftermath of extreme weather events. However, the combination of the disasters and COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Barbados. In 2020 the island’s economy contracted by 17%. “You are effectively talking about the potential loss of a decade,” Mottley says.

Barbados, an emerging country, needs financial support to adapt and combat climate change. Developed nations pledged 12 years ago to put $100 billion a year toward helping them do it by 2020, but that target has not been met, and Mottley will be among those at COP26 arguing that it is no longer sufficient. It’s not just a question of countries sharing responsibilities, she says, but of ensuring their very existence. “This issue is about life and death for us. It is an issue about the stability of a nation.”

Read More of TIME’s COP26 Coverage: Meet the People Who Are Working for the COP26 Agenda


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