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The Thirty-Ninth Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers opened on 9 January 2017, at the CARICOM headquarters, Guyana, under the chairmanship of Guyana’s Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Carl Greenidge.
In his remarks to the Official Opening, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Amb. Irwin LaRocque told the gathering that 2017 was “a crucial year for the Community’s Reform Process, as it was the mid-point of the five-year (2015-2019) Strategic Plan for the Community, a foundational element of the process. He informed that the Operational Plan for achieving the goals of the Strategic Plan was designed and that a system to measure progress, based on the principles of Results-Based Management, was being established with financing from the Caribbean Development Bank. Amb. LaRocque said that the gender sensitive CARICOM Results-based Management System was a timely and necessary initiative which would bring significant changes to the way the Community works.
“It will assist in fostering a results-oriented culture throughout the Community and will help us to measure the pace of the regional integration process and its impact on the lives of the people…”, he said.
The Secretary General highlighted a number of issues that the Community was still grappling with. These included low growth, the challenges of correspondent banking, climate change, crime and security and restrictions on access to concessional development financing. Amb. LaRocque called for the strengthening and deepening of the Community’s integration process, noting that it was the “best option to ensure that the Community withstand the challenges before it.”
“It is our path to sustainable development and the continued improvement of the lives of the people of our Community”, he said.
Minister Greenidge will guide the two-day meeting of the Council, which comprises ministers responsible for CARICOM Affairs in Member States and is the second highest Organ of the Community. The Council has primary responsibility for strategic planning and coordination of the Community, in accordance with the policy directions established by the Conference of Heads of Government.
Peruse: Remarks at the Opening Ceremony
Credit: CARICOM Secretariat
On December 12 in Paris, France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, brought to a close the UN climate change conference, COP 21.“I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document,” he said, and then seconds later: “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”
It was, according to some reports, an act of brinkmanship, as unresolved last minute concerns had been expressed by Nicaragua and there was, in a part of the final draft text, a difficulty surrounding US concerns about the use of the word ‘shall’ rather than the more discretionary word ‘should’; but with mysteriously, a typographical error being declared, the deal was done.
Apart from it demonstrating Mr Fabius’ outstanding ability to bring to a conclusion a multi-dimensional meeting in which unanimity was required if the world was ever to be able to address climate change; US concerns, driven by domestic politics, demonstrated how hard it may be for nations most at risk to obtain a viable outcome.
Caricom was ready for Paris. A task force had been set up two years ago and the region had a well-prepared position, a short-list of critical issues, and simple but memorable branding. In addition to a delegation led St Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Dr James Fisher, and the Caricom Secretary General, Irwin LaRoque, seven Caribbean Heads of Government travelled to Paris to express, at the opening, the region’s concerns, and to mobilise third-party support among the huge numbers of NGO’s, business interests, environmentalists and other present in Paris.
It was an outstanding example of where, in the pursuit of a common cause that touches everyone in the region, the regional institution can add real value and be an organisation to be proud of. It demonstrated in relation to important cross-cutting roles, a future for the secretariat.
For the Caribbean and other low lying small nations, for which sea level change and global warming are quite literally existential issues, what now is at stake is whether what has been agreed is deliverable; what the text means in practical terms; and how the region and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) intend ensuring that the many commitments made are delivered within the agreed time frame.
In outline, the thirty one page text agreed by 193 nations proposes that a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the sinks for ameliorating them is achieved in the second half of this century. It emphasizes the need to hold the increase in the global average temperature well below 2C (36F) above pre-industrial levels, proposes ‘pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C (35F)’, and that a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions be achieved as soon as possible. It accepts an asymmetrical approach enabling all developing countries – including large industrialised carbon emitters like China, India and Brazil – to have more time to adapt.
In a section that addresses loss and damage, it agrees a US$100bn annual minimum up to 2030 to enable support for mitigation and adaptation in developing nations, but does not accept there is any basis for compensation for loss and damage by carbon emitters. It also does not set a time scale for reaching greenhouse gas emission neutrality, or say anything about the shipping or aviation industries.
The problem for the Caribbean and all AOSIS’ 39 member states is whether what was agreed in Paris is prescriptive enough, or is so hedged round by the potential for opt-outs, delays, and unenforceability as to make it meaningless.
What it suggests that Caricom must now follow through, as the agreement as it stands is little more than an aspirational framework. Together with other AOSIS states it needs to determine how at the UN and in other fora it is going to hold the world to account for what has been agreed, then obtain, and successfully apply some of the money that will be available for both adaptation and mitigation.
This will not just be a test of the Caribbean’s staying power and the willingness of its governments to fund and support a continuing focus, but will also require that the region hold to account those countries that it supported during the negotiations. They will need to prove, when it comes to the Caribbean that their expressed concerns reflected more than just a need to obtain a satisfactory agreement. It is a position that will have to be deployed as much with China and Brazil as with the US and Europe.
In this, both Caricom and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) will continue to have a critical role in coordinating the regional effort. But it will also be up to governments to maintain the political momentum, demonstrate a unity of purpose, and to be determined to pay attention to the Caribbean’s implementation deficit.
Climate change is an issue on which the Caribbean has had every reason to have its voice heard and be taken very seriously. Fifty per cent of its population and the majority of the region’s productive enterprise and infrastructure lie within 1.2 miles of the sea. Its low lying nature, its fragile eco-systems, and extreme weather events demonstrate that it is a prime candidate to benefit from what has been agreed.
While countries in the region are often accused of allowing mendacity to drive their foreign policy, here is an example where the Caribbean deserves a transfer of resources if it, quite literally, is not to disappear beneath the sea.
Climate change also has a strategic importance. It enables the Caribbean to demonstrate an approach that owes more to the future than to the past; it is an issue on which it has a better chance to exert leverage; and one that can deliver national and regional development objectives. It is also an issue on which the region occupies the moral high ground and has popular international support.
Sea levels and water temperatures are rising and it will be some of the world’s smallest nations that will suffer first. Logic would therefore suggest that the Caribbean – a region of vulnerable, low or zero carbon emitting states – should be a significant early beneficiary of any resource transfer for adaptation. It is now up to Caricom to make this a public cause.
Credit: Dominican Today
“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
The Australian High Commissioner to CARICOM Ross Tysoe AO says “impressive work” is being carried out by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which he experienced first-hand during a recent visit.
The envoy cited the Centre’s effective management of Australia’s technical and cooperation assistance in supporting Belize’s Barrier Reef Marine System, adding that Australia is pleased to have contributed to this project which included a coral reef early warning station. The Ambassador said the project is a “fantastic example” of CARICOM-Australia cooperation. Speaking on Thursday, April 04, 2013 following the formal acceptance of his letter of credence by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the envoy said he is convinced Australia’s aid programmes are “in safe hands”.
Cooperation between CARICOM and Australia was formalised in November 2009 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, between the leaders of CARICOM and Australia. At that meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, paving the way for Australia to make some $60 million (AUS) available over four years to CARICOM for cooperation in areas of special mutual interest.
The areas of cooperation include climate change, disaster risk reduction and emergency management; regional integration, including trade facilitation; education, including in the fields of science and technology, provision of scholarships and training of diplomats; university co-operation; food security and agricultural co-operation; renewable energy, microfinance; border security and sport, youth and culture.
Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre.