Stakes high for Caribbean at climate change conference

kenny anthony

WARNING: St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says that unless we can get the countries that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases to commit to more ambitious reductions, the Caribbean will face serious and potentially deadly consequences.

 

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday November 30, 2015 – As the highly anticipated climate change conference begins today in Paris, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) lead head on climate change and sustainable development is issuing a grave warning.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says that “unless we can get the countries that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases to commit to more ambitious reductions, the Caribbean will be confronted with more extreme storms and hurricanes, more frequent and prolonged droughts, dangerous sea-level rise that will wash away roads, homes, hotels, and ports in every island; greater food insecurity and more acidic oceans that will kill our corals, damage our fish stock and negatively impact our tourism industries.”

Heads of State and Government, Ministers responsible for the environment, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, scientists and other stakeholders are coming together in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to negotiate a new global climate change agreement.

CARICOM negotiators have been working assiduously in several meetings leading up to the Paris conference, which will run until December 11, to emphasize that temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is still inadequate for protecting ecosystems in Small Island and Low-Lying Developing States, (SIDS) from the adverse impact of climate change.

They will continue this advocacy in Paris to advance the position that the goal for average long-term global temperature increase should be no more than 1.5 degrees, a level necessary for the mere survival of SIDS.

Dr. Anthony said CARICOM Heads of Government are anticipating a robust, comprehensive legally binding Paris Agreement that commits all countries to limiting the long temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. He said CARICOM will also advocate for:

  • the retention of the principal of special circumstances and unique vulnerability of SIDS;
  • five-year review cycles of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with the first review to take place prior to 2020, to allow for the adjustments necessary to achieve the goal of 1.5 degrees;
  • recognition of loss and damage (the irreversible, slow onset impacts of climate change to which it is not possible to adapt, example sea-level rise and ocean acidification) as a critical issue for SIDS and the development of a mechanism to address this element, treated separately from adaptation;
  • support for REDD+ (efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the sustainable management of forests);
  • adequate provisions for adaptation to help Caribbean countries reduce their vulnerability to effects of climate change and develop great climate resilience where possible; and
  • commitment by developed countries to take the lead in scaling up the provision of adequate, predictable and new sources of financing for mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and for technology support.

Importantly, Dr. Anthony said, CARICOM would seek to ensure that there is no reneging on the commitment to provide US$100 billion from 2020 to assist vulnerable countries to cope with the impact of climate change.

CARICOM Member States are part of a group of Small Island Developing and low-lying coastal States (SIDS) that are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Recognizing the importance of the issue, CARICOM established a Task Force on Sustainable Development in 2013 led by Dr James Fletcher Minister with responsibility for Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of St. Lucia.

This Task Force guided the involvement of the Community through briefs along with the formulation and reviewing of the region’s negotiating positions.

Scientific information, including the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicates that the high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing the temperature of the planet to increase to dangerous levels. At the current levels, the planet is on track for an almost 4 degrees Celsius increase by the end of the year 2100.

This is regarded as extremely alarming to SIDS since the science confirms that the window of opportunity to hold temperature increase below two degrees centigrade or below one point five degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels is rapidly closing. The IPCC report also indicates that there may be only six years to go before either goal is overrun.  This would limit the capacity of SIDS to adapt to climate change. Some may even lose adaptation options altogether.

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