UN told of economic and environmental shocks of Caribbean nations

UNITED NATIONS, September 26, 2006 – Caribbean countries have voiced concern over global warming and unfair trade at the United Nations General Assembly underway in New York. In their addresses Tuesday, some Caribbean countries called for greater efforts to achieve greater energy efficiency to reduce global warming and fair trade as they drew to the attention of the world the economic and environmental vulnerabilities faced by their developing nations.

Foreign Minister of Saint Lucia, Petrus Compton, told the 61st session of the General Assembly in New York Tuesday that small island developing States everywhere were extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change. People in the tropics are endangered by sea-level rise while others are faced with “unprecedented and accelerated thawing of ice caps, and the consequent loss of land mass.”

Foreign Minister of the Bahamas, Fredrick Mitchell said that “to a small island developing State, there are few things more important than securing the necessary assistance in order to build resilience against the many hazards that afflict the country on a consistent basis, including the violent storms that pass through our region even more frequently as a result of global warming.”

He said these vulnerable nations “look to our partners to take further action to reduce greenhouse gases, and call on those countries that have not yet done so to sign the Kyoto Protocol” – a legally binding instrument that mandates the reduction of greenhouse gases. He also called for the development of alternative sources of energy “to make us less dependent on the current polluting technologies that supply our energy needs but threat our sustainability.”

Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Rudolph Insanally, called attention to the fragility of the world’s ecosystem. “Witness the increasing number of earthquakes, tropical storms and hurricanes which cause catastrophic damage,” he said, recalling that less than a year ago, a flood resulted in damage amounting to 60 per cent of Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

He called for the establishment of early warning systems across the globe and said resources should be provided to the UN to facilitate early responses and recovery. “Disaster mitigation should, in short, now become an integral part of our partnership agenda.”

Charles A. Savarin, the Foreign Minister of Dominica, noted that his country is located in “the hurricane belt, an earthquake zone and a volcanic region.” As such, it welcomed the establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund, saying the initiative “will significantly enhance the capacity of the United Nations to more effectively respond to the increasing frequency of natural disasters brought about by climate change and global warming.”

All countries, he added, “now have an obligation to contribute to the building of the Fund, while at the same time taking steps to put in place measures to combat climate change and reduce our emission of greenhouse gases.”

Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay of Belize complained that the World Trade Organisation had worsened conditions for his country.

“Since Doha,” he said, referring to the ‘development round’ of the trade talks, “a panel set up by the WTO decided that the European Union (EU) organization of its sugar market was incompatible with WTO rules. To solve that problem, Belizean sugar farmers now get paid less for the sugar exported to the EU. The WTO has made them worse off.”

He charged that there is “something inherently wrong” with a system which promises development and delivers lower prices for exports. “There is something fundamentally unfair in a system which promises a development agenda and delivers suspended negotiations and less market access to vulnerable economies.”

Anthony Hylton, the Foreign Minister of Jamaica, also decried the stalemate and breakdown in the Doha round of negotiations. “Perhaps even more significant is that in the negotiations that did take place, the development dimension, especially as this relates to the small and vulnerable economies such as Jamaica, was conspicuously absent from the debate,” he said. “These issues must be addressed in any effort to restart the negotiations.”

Any viable and equitable trade regime must take account of the wide disparity in structural characteristics among the many members of the WTO and adjust accordingly, he said, adding that this should “include the differences in levels of development among the economies and the asymmetries that exist between developed and developing countries.”