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Top 5 critical areas for the Caribbean at COP 21

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
St Lucia makes waves at COP 21. Dizzanne Billy, left, with Dr James Fletcher, the Minister of Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of St Lucia. Photo: Nickson Barry

Dizzanne Billy is president of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in T&T, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness on environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with the Adopt-A-Negotiator programme and an advocate for climate change action. She is currently in Le Bourget, Paris, France for the COP21 climate change talks. This is the second of three articles she is sending to the Guardian.

Dizzanne Billy

“We are already limping from climate disaster to climate disaster and we know that there is worse to come. This is the time for human solidarity, but it is also time for action, for us to be the leaders we were elected to be.” 
—President Christopher Loeak, Marshal Islands.

The UN’s Conference of Parties (COP) is a forum where 196 countries come together to decide on a global climate agreement to influence national climate change policies. Our future and our survival is hinged to this power play. At the end of the first week of COP 21 here in Paris, there were some critical areas for Caricom and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS). 

Fortunately, Caricom appears to have a shared idea of what they must do to seek the interests of the Caribbean and other SIDS. For the most part, these ideas fall in line with those held up by other developing countries within G77 + China, Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs), and a key one for Caricom—the Alliance of Small Island Developing States. 

These developing countries are adamant that their submitted proposals must be inserted into the text of the climate agreement because they are essential and “non-negotiable.” So what are the top five concerns for Caricom after the first week of negotiations?

I sat down with Senator, the Honourable Dr James Fletcher the Minister of Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of St Lucia at COP 21 to get a better understanding of what these negotiations really mean for Caribbean citizens. 

Climate finance for adaptation and mitigation
According to Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Dr Kendrick Leslie, “The urgency and seriousness of climate change calls for ambition in financing adaptation and financing.” Dr Fletcher supports this view: “The negotiations have been a very long battle for SIDS, so now is not the time to let up. Climate finance is a big issue for the Caribbean as it enables us to adapt to the changes that will come due to damage already done, and allows us to fund our mitigation projects.”

Developing countries need rich countries to reaffirm their commitment to $100 billion financing. Particularly, we need finance for adaptation and easier and more direct access to funds.

Loss and damage
Irremediable climate change impacts that developing countries are unable to adapt to are referred to as “loss and damage.” Dr Fletcher stated that this is a big issue for SIDS because of their vulnerability to intensified climate conditions. 

He said the frequency and strength of hurricanes are worse now than they were in the past, and developing countries find themselves going through “a continuous cycle of hurricanes and recovery, which pressures their already limited funds.” Developed countries equate loss and damage to liability and compensation. So basically, loss and damage is like the coyote, and countries like the United States, Australia, and the European Union represent the roadrunner. 

• Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus)
Caribbean countries fully back REDD-plus in order to lend their voices in support of heavily forested countries such as Guyana and Suriname. The aim is to decrease emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through conservation efforts and sustainable management of forests. 

• 1.5 degree goal 
Caribbean countries are in solidarity with other developing countries in the push to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Close to 115 countries, such as Germany and France, now support this goal. According to Dr Fletcher, “the longer we take to increase our ambitions is the longer it will take to reduce emissions and the worse our living situations will become.” Science shows that 1.5 is the absolute threshold; above this, ecosystems will collapse and SIDS will suffer. SIDS are heavily dependent on ecosystems for income and must not resign the stance. For instance, he stated that Guyana and Grenada are two low-lying countries that will suffer tremendously if the 2 degree stands.  St Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean is currently undergoing its most severe drought in the past five years, which affects land resources and food security. Antigua was recently drought-stricken, running out of surface water and having all surface catchments fall below extraction levels. 

• Five-year review cycles
Dr Fletcher informed me that Caribbean countries are calling for the inclusion of five-year reviews on the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) because then we can measure distance away from 1.5 degrees. 

Caricom wants a robust, legally binding climate agreement that will take us to 1.5 degree or lower. They want finance for mitigation and adaptation projects, to safeguard our food, save critical industries such as tourism, and promote investment in renewable energy infrastructure. 
Civil society will make it difficult for government leaders, ministers, and negotiators to ignore the call for climate action. Climate change offers no moral high ground and the world cannot afford another failure. 


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