The Scripps Howard Foundation announced this week that ProPublica won a national journalism award for excellence in environmental reporting for “Barbados Resists Climate Colonialism in an Effort to Survive the Costs of Global Warming,” a joint investigation with The New York Times Magazine.
In late 2021, reporter Abrahm Lustgarten set out to understand how punishing levels of sovereign debt stand in the way of vulnerable nations’ ability to adapt to climate change. His reporting quickly led him to the Caribbean, whose small island nations face numerous, compounding climate risks and carry more debt, relative to the size of their economies, than anywhere else on the planet.
Told through the experience of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Lustgarten’s story illustrates how gatekeepers to global finance, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, have been slow to account for how climate risks imperil small nations’ finances, pushing classical economic approaches that wind up making their debt problems worse and their climate risks greater.
Three months after the story’s publication in July 2022, dozens of small countries, following the lead of Mottley, went to the global United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt to make their case for “loss and damage” funding and a form of climate reparations. The economic reform framework that arose from those discussions is now known as the Bridgetown Initiative, and the bones of that initiative, which is named for Barbados’ capital, reflect the solutions as they were first laid out in Lustgarten’s story. Soon after its publication (on the cover of the Times Magazine), the IMF revised its decade-old policy for Barbados, enacting a new $45 billion resilience trust and making Barbados one of the first recipients.
See all the Scripps Howard Award winners.