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Top global emitters must ‘pay for their sins,’ says CARICOM chairman

Caribbean faces challenges in climate fight


Deandre Williamson

Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow

The Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world and with limited resources, the region is unable to effectively fight climate change, according to CARICOM Chairman Philip Davis, who called for countries responsible for the climate crisis to be held accountable.

“We being least among the emitters, we need to hold responsible the major industrialized countries that emit the greenhouse gases into the air and they ought to pay for their sins,” Davis said.

Although an agreement was made during COP27 for a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries hard-hit by climate disasters, follow-up is needed.

“So, the next effort on our part is to see what we can do to ensure that those who commit to funding that fund do so,” Davis, who is also prime minister of The Bahamas, said. His comments came during a recent interview with Climate Tracker where he expressed concerns over the challenges the region faces in the climate fight as it seeks to minimize its carbon footprint. 

Another global effort that has been taken to ensure that industrialized countries are held accountable for their carbon emissions is the signing of a petition for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change.

A number of countries have signed this petition that would provide an authoritative and coherent statement on the international legal obligations of countries to respond effectively to climate change.

The CARICOM chairman explained that the advisory opinion would determine how the Caribbean could move to having some “legal teeth” to its efforts to enforce claims that the region may have as a result of the climate disasters that wreak havoc on many of its countries.

“Hopefully, we are seeking an opinion that might pave the way to take out action against the major industrialized countries and companies that emit more than any other country with gases,” the CARICOM chairman added. While trying to make the industrialized countries accountable for their actions, the Caribbean is also faced with the challenge of minimizing its carbon footprint.  

According to Davis, alternative energy is a measure Caribbean countries can implement to minimize the region’s carbon footprint, but it’s costly.

“I’m encouraging my colleagues to move to see how they can switch from fossil fuel to alternative energy and natural energy,” Davis said. “Of course, the challenge for that with us in the region is that would be an expensive exercise and the limited resources we have recognizing that we are continually under the existential threat of hurricanes and other climate disasters.” These climate catastrophes result in losses and damages for the region. In The Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian resulted in $3.4 billion in loss and damage.

“If anyone were to profile the debt of most of our countries in our region, you would find a significant percentage of our debt that we have to repay is directly linked to the costs associated with recovery after a catastrophic hurricane,” Davis explained.

He added that “building defences to the damage of climate change” is an expensive exercise because there are limited resources in the region that leaders have at their disposal to balance and take care of the basic needs of their people.

As the global fight for climate justice continues, concerns are growing as to whether the global warming temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius or not. However, scientists are predicting that the El Niño weather event will return this year causing the temperature to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius and cause extreme heat.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the world is dangerously close to surpassing the global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees, the level that keeps everyone safe. UNDP added that the last decade was the hottest on record, land and ocean temperatures are rising, polar ice and mountains are melting and the weather is becoming more unpredictable and deadly.

However, Davis said the 1.5 degrees target is challenging, but CARICOM isn’t giving up on it as a number of the industrialized countries are stepping back from their commitments to alternative energy.  “Germany for example has returned to coal, the use of coal,” he added. “So again, there’s a challenge in reaching the goal of 1.5 degrees, and what do we do?

“We are the most vulnerable countries. The Caribbean region is one of the most vulnerable regions, is the most vulnerable region in the world.

“The Bahamas is particularly vulnerable because we are spread out 100,000 square miles. More than 80 percent of our land mass is less than three meters above sea level.

“We need to continue this fight because if nothing changes, we are doomed to a watery grave or to be climate refugees.”  

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.