Climate talks at CARICOM
Heads of Government discuss climate action and financing
Deandre Williamson – Caribbean Climate Tracker Journalism Fellow
Among the myriad of challenges facing Caribbean countries, climate change is at the top, and CARICOM Heads of Government recently met to express their concerns for more climate action and financing to tackle the climate crisis that presents an existential threat to the region.
During the opening ceremony at the 44th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government of CARICOM held in The Bahamas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Terrance Drew acknowledged, in his remarks, that the time has come for international financial institutions to take positive actions to address the realities the Caribbean faces and enable the region to not only recover from natural disasters, but to adapt to the existential threat of climate change by building stronger, more resilient communities to benefit the lives of the people.
“We strongly believe that greater consideration should be given to the multidimensional vulnerability index as a more holistic metric for addressing complex issues,” Dr. Drew said. Such complex issues include high costs associated with debt and climate change, adaptation and mitigation, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and legal access to grant and concessional financing mechanisms that would enable Caribbean nations to recover from external economic and environmental shocks.
According to Dr. Drew, these are overlapping challenges that impact all sectors of the economy forcing CARICOM member states to play catch-up as they advance their respective development agendas.
“It is more closely aligned to the ever-present danger we face on an annual basis, having to endure the ravages of natural disasters including hurricanes, drought, volcanic eruptions and rising sea levels,” he added. “Assessing our high GDP does not adequately consider our vulnerability to economic and climate related shocks. The analysis must involve a holistic approach to addressing vulnerability and provide solutions that are effective and sustainable.”
Therefore, Caribbean countries continue to call for climate financing because climate change is a living reality that threatens children, the planet and future generations of CARICOM member states.
During this CARICOM meeting, held Feb. 15 to 17, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his commitment of $44.8 million in new funding to tackle the climate crisis in the Caribbean.
A statement issued by CARICOM following the meeting, noted that Heads of Government expressed their disappointment that COP27 held at Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt last year did not deliver on its headline agenda of implementation, rather it ended with only weak climate finance and mitigation outcomes.
In a video address during the opening ceremony, outgoing Chair of CARICOM Chandrikapersad Santokhi said, “The outcomes of the major international climate change conferences did not meet our expectations. However, emerging from COP27 was an agreement to establish a fund for loss and damages, a significant achievement, particularly for small island and low lying coastal developing states such as our member states.”
Santokhi, who is also Suriname’ s president, added that climate change, desertification, water scarcity and environmental degradation are life and death realities.
“I believe these issues remain pertinent and should remain on our active agenda as we move forward to COP28.”
According to CARICOM’s statement, noting the detailed negotiating agenda ahead en route to COP28, Heads of Government called on the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the CARICOM Secretariat to present a Work Plan for the approval of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at their meeting in April 2023. This would prepare member states to engage effectively in the climate negotiations process, and advance the regions’ interests for high ambition, predictable and sustained support, and global cooperation for implementation.
The Heads of Government also agreed to present oceans as a subject matter on the agenda of COP28, the statement added.
However, CARICOM Chairman Philip Davis reminded member states that even though the CARICOM region is vulnerable to the rising sea levels and temperatures, erosion of coastal communities and hurricanes, which are more frequent and more intense, by working together, member states show that they’re not powerless.
“I have no doubt that in joining our voices last year to present an agreed position at COP27, we helped to influence the shift in position relating to ‘loss and damage’ arising from the impact of climate change,” Davis, who is also the prime minister of The Bahamas, said.
Davis also recognized the Bridgetown Initiative, which proposes reforms to the Global Financial Architecture. He said this initiative is a shining example of how this region has much to contribute to solving critical international issues.
Warning on rising temperatures
Rising temperatures have been an international issue in the global fight against climate change as the world struggles to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This issue was also discussed during the meeting and according to CARICOM’s statement, the Heads of Government agreed to conduct high-level political advocacy amongst major economies to encourage greater ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Unfortunately, new evidence from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded PROVIDE project, shows that rising temperatures will increasingly limit the options available to adapt to climate change in The Bahamas, with increased intensity of tropical cyclones, sea level rise and ocean acidification expected to strain infrastructure and affect people’s livelihoods. This will occur if the 1.5 degrees Celsius is crossed and cause implications for the wider Caribbean.
“If temperatures rise over this limit, there is still an option we can bring them back down again if we can get to net zero emissions and get carbon out of the atmosphere,” commented Dr. Carl-Freiderich Schleussner, from Humboldt University and Climate Analytics, who leads the PROVIDE project and provided comments in a statement.
“But it’s really important for people to recognize that some of the changes that occur at these higher temperature levels – like sea level rise for example – may not be reversible. So, policy makers need to have this in mind. Reducing our emissions buys us so much on the adaptation front.”
This story was published with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture of Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.
About the Fellowship
The Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship is offered by Climate Tracker, an international non-profit organization, aiming to support, train and incentivize better climate journalism globally. The fellowship provides a platform for journalists to learn and publish stories about the search for solutions that deal with the core causes of climate change while addressing a wide range of social, racial, and environmental injustices that exist. Over the course of six months, fellows will learn from a range of environmental, storytelling, and journalism experts, while practically applying their learning in articles aimed at sharing the national and regional climate justice debates, with the primary intention and focus on publishing powerful stories on climate justice. This fellowship will take a holistic and career-building perspective that actively integrates fellows into the building of a fruitful community for Caribbean climate journalists, storytellers, and communicators.