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LaRocque indicated that CARICOM countries had a unified voice at COP21 and he “wanted to pay tribute to the excellent work done by the Climate Change Centre for preparing the community for what I consider to be a sucessful outcome of the COP21 in Paris.”
The Paris Agreement commits all counties to limit global warming to as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible striving to stave it off at 1.5 degrees. This will require all countries to undertake ambitious efforts to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases which are produced primarily by the use of fossil fuels and deforestation. The Agreement also acknowledges that counties are already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change, that those impacts will continue to increase and that urgent action is required to undertake measures to enable communities to adapt to extreme and slow onset events precipitated by climate change. In a major victory for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and all Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Agreement contains an article on Loss and Damage in which countries agree to cooperate to address irreversible and permanent loss and damage, and non-economic losses and work on resilience, risk management and insurance solutions.
Developed countries have pledged to continue their efforts to leverage US$100 billion per year to assist developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts through 2025 and to raise that baseline after 2025. Similar pledges have been made for the transfer of technology and capacity building. A significant provision of the Agreement requires all countries to participate in a transparency framework in which all countries will report biennially on the actions they have undertaken to meet the mitigation and adaptation pledges they made in their nationally determined contributions which will be submitted every five years. In addition developed countries are required to report on the level of support they have provided and an indication of what they will provide, while developing counties will report on the support they require and what they have received.
The CARICOM Climate Change Centre is especially pleased that the Paris Agreement will be informed by science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been mandated to produce a Special Report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial level and emission pathways to attain that target. The Centre played a major role in advocating for that target and for ensuring that the region was well represented and prepared to engage effectively in the negotiations in Paris. With the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID) it prepared technical papers and convened annual regional meetings to develop informed regional positions. With additional support provided by the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the High level Support Mechanism (HLSM), these efforts were scaled up in 2015 as the Centre convened several technical and ministerial meetings and sessions of the CARICOM Task Force and the Regional Coordinating Committee which resulted in a Declaration on Climate Change which was adopted by the CARICOM Heads of Government and was the blueprint for the region’s position for COP 21. Its efforts culminated in Paris with a Caribbean-wide pavilion which was used by the Caribbean delegations to showcase their vulnerability to climate change and the efforts they are undertaking to address climate change, to convene strategy meetings and to engage in bilateral meetings. Support for the pavilion was provided by the Government of Martinique and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) among others.
The Centre’s efforts in 2016 will now turn towards ensuring that its member States formally adopt the Agreement as soon as possible, that they are prepared to undertake the obligations of the Agreement and that they can take full advantage of the opportunities provided in the Agreement.
“CARICOM’s interests were strongly represented in a focused and coordinated manner by heads of government, ministers, the CARICOM secretary-general (Irwin LaRocque)and his staff, and a team of experienced and skilled negotiators led by Dr the Honourable James Fletcher. We are satisfied that our strong advocacy helped to ensure that the [final] agreement reflected the region’s position on our major red-line issues,” Stuart, who is also prime minister of Barbados, said in a release issued by the CARICOM Secretariat through Panos Caribbean.
“The region’s successful campaign, built around the slogan ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’, received energetic support from several groups and organisations, including youth and cultural artistes, whose efforts must be applauded,” added Stuart.
The campaign kicked off in October with a launch event held in St Lucia. At the same time, a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account were established to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges.
Later, a theme song – the collaborative effort of a number of regional acts – was released.
Several other activities, including a Selfie Video Challenge and a flash mob, were also implemented to get Caribbean people in the know and behind the campaign effort.
At the talks, the region, for the first time, had a pavilion – called the Wider Caribbean Pavilion – that afforded the space for strategy meetings by regional negotiators and networking among players.
Caribbean artistes Aaron Silk of Jamaica and Adrian ‘The Doc’ Martinez of Belize were also on hand to spread, through music, the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ message, and were big hits with participants.
In the end, Stuart said it all paid off.
“We believe that the actions and investment approved in the agreement will bring us closer to the goal of maintaining global average temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius and along a clear trajectory downwards towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he said.
“That agreement will also help to realise the goals of lower greenhouse gas emissions, greater resilience, and sustainable development, especially among the small-island and low-lying coastal developing states (SIDS), with the most vulnerable populations such as the countries of the Caribbean. We determinedly and successfully promoted recognition of the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of SIDS, which are among the lowest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but are the most threatened by climate change,” Stuart added.
One Jamaican actor involved in the negotiations agreed that the Caribbean could feel satisfied with the result.
“The CARICOM region can be satisfied with the outcome, which retains the recognition under the (United Nations Framework) Convention (on Climate Change), of the fact that SIDS have specific needs and face special circumstances which render our territories particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. We have also secured a decision for equal funding for adaptation and mitigation,” noted Colonel Oral Khan, a member of the Jamaica delegation to Paris and chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.
“This is very significant for us as the science is telling us that the concentration of greenhouse gases is already at a level that can be catastrophic. We, therefore, cannot await the benefits from current mitigation efforts, which will be realised over the next half a century. There are things we must do now to protect vital sectors of our economy and the lives of our people,” he added.
What remains is to have these things actioned.
“The international community must now retain the energising and uplifting spirit of Paris in the process going forward. The world expects no less,” Stuart said.
Credit: Jamaica Gleaner