At the end of two weeks of discussions, the decisions taken at the COP27 climate change talks in Egypt have brought the region some funding benefits but little in the form of actual commitment towards meaningful reductions in emissions.
The term ‘prevention is better than cure’ seems to have been reversed, as richer nations now appear more willing to put their money behind fixing the aftermath of powerful weather systems, than addressing the problem of climate change itself.
Caribbean delegates went into the Sharm el-Sheikh summit calling for rich nations, who are mainly responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, to financially assist those who are vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
They also went in urging other world leaders to make good on their talk to reduce emissions by cutting back significantly on the use of fossil fuels.
Of the two demands, regional representatives walk away assured, only somewhat, of one.
Following years of resistance from rich governments, nations represented at COP27 agreed to set up a fund to provide pay-outs to developing countries that suffer loss and damage from climate-driven storms, floods, drought, and wildfires.
This is a plus for the region, thanks in part to the likes of Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minster Gaston Browne who was in the forefront of calling out big countries such as the United States and China for their actions that inevitably hurt small island states like ours.
Trinidad and Tobago has been a little less outspoken on this, given the country’s economic dependence on oil and gas. But where vulnerability is concerned, we’re all in this together.
Therefore, the ground-breaking “loss and damage” fund agreed to at COP27 is welcomed. So too the commitment to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise it at COP28 next year.
But given what we’ve been seeing all along, our optimism remains tempered by realism.
It’s likely to take several years to hammer out the details of how the fund will be run, including how the money will be dispersed and which countries are likely to be eligible.
As such, Caricom must bargain for a proper seat at the table for the region to get its just due.
We need no reminder of the impact of tropical storms and hurricanes on our economic progression. If fighting for funding is all we can truly do at this time, we must do so as a forceful, united front.
This success aside, COP27 has all but failed the region, as once again leaders walked away without any proper agreement on carbon reductions.
The final COP27 deal has been criticised for not doing more to rein in climate-damaging emissions through the setting of more ambitious national targets and by scaling back the use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas.
Instead, the final text called for efforts to “phase down” the use of unabated coal power and “phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” despite pleas for a phase out, or, at least, a phase down of all fossil fuels.
This, we’re certain, is not going to be overturned anytime soon, despite the previous promises made by developed countries.
What the region and all other vulnerable countries are in effect being told to accept, is that money will come after one survives the vicious impacts of what the world refuses to prevent at this time.
However, from where we sit, prevention will always be better than cure.