Cli­mate change a test of the re­gion’s stay­ing power

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - David Jes­sop is a con­sul­tant to the Caribbean Coun­cil. david.jes­sop@caribbean­coun­

AFTER A pe­riod of un­cer­tainty, it has been con­firmed that the Paris Agree­ment on Cli­mate Change will en­ter into force on Novem­ber 4.

This is good news for the Caribbean, one of the parts of the world most at risk from sea level change and se­vere cli­matic events.

By global treaty stan­dards, for­mal agree­ment has been achieved re­mark­ably quickly, es­pe­cially as the so­lu­tions that the treaty pro­poses re­main po­lit­i­cally con­tro­ver­sial in many of the na­tions that agreed last De­cem­ber to the fi­nal text.

Nor­mally, rat­i­fi­ca­tion takes years to achieve. How­ever, faced with ev­i­dence that the planet con­tin­ues to warm and the pos­si­bil­ity that Don­ald Trump could be­come the next US pres­i­dent and may pick apart the hard-won agree­ment, the world’s largest car­bon emit­ters – China, the United States, Brazil, the Euro­pean Union, and In­dia, but not so far Ja­pan or Rus­sia – have agreed to rat­ify, thereby reach­ing the agreed tar­get of 56.87 per cent of all global emis­sions, for the treaty to come into force.

In many re­spects, this is a vic­tory for the Caribbean, for CARICOM in par­tic­u­lar, and the African, Caribbean and Pa­cific Group of States (ACP) and other small-is­land de­vel­op­ing states, which in Paris last De­cem­ber made clear that a pos­i­tive out­come was ex­is­ten­tial.

In out­line, the 31-page agree­ment pro­poses that a bal­ance be­tween green­house gas emis­sions and the sinks for ame­lio­rat­ing them is achieved in the sec­ond half of this cen­tury.

It em­pha­sises the need to hold the in­crease in the global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius (36 de­grees Fahren­heit) above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els; pro­poses “pur­su­ing ef­forts to limit the tem­per­a­ture in­crease to 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius (35 de­grees Fahren­heit)”; and rec­om­mends that a peak in global green­house gas emis­sions be achieved as soon as pos­si­ble. It al­lows for an asym­met­ri­cal ap­proach, en­abling all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries – in­clud­ing large in­dus­tri­al­is­ing car­bon emit­ters like China, In­dia and Brazil – to have more time to adapt.

In a sec­tion that ad­dresses loss and dam­age, the agree­ment es­tab­lishes fund­ing at the min­i­mum an­nual rate of US$100 bil­lion up to 2030 to en­able sup­port for mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion in de­vel­op­ing na­tions. How­ever, it does not set a timescale for reach­ing green­house gas emis­sion neu­tral­ity.

Un­like the ear­lier Ky­oto Pro­to­col of 2005, which re­quired ma­jor car­bon emit­ters to agree to bind­ing emis­sions re­duc­tions, but failed when the US de­cided not to rat­ify be­cause of ex­clu­sion of na­tions like China, the Paris agree­ment re­quires all coun­tries to de­vise their own cli­mate ac­tion plans and then im­prove on them at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals.

What comes next is likely to be dif­fi­cult, re­quir­ing all of the diplo­matic and po­lit­i­cal skills that the Caribbean and other small-is­land de­vel­op­ing states have.


While Hur­ri­cane Matthew and the dam­age that it wreaked in Haiti, The Ba­hamas, and Cuba was a salu­tary global re­minder of the risk that low-ly­ing states with lim­ited re­sources face, CARICOM, as its Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Ir­win LaRocque, noted ear­lier this year, now faces the chal­lenge of be­ing able to ac­cess the re­sources the agree­ment prom­ises.

An im­por­tant re­cent de­vel­op­ment in this re­spect has been the es­tab­lish­ment by the Com­mon­wealth Sec­re­tariat, with Aus­tralian finance, of a new fa­cil­ity in­tended to as­sist gov­ern­ments ob­tain avail­able fund­ing.

The idea is that a Com­mon­wealth Cli­mate Finance Ac­cess Hub will lo­cate na­tional cli­mate-finance ad­vis­ers in coun­tries for two-year pe­ri­ods to help ac­cess cli­mate change sup­port. Among the first coun­tries likely to re­ceive such sup­port are An­tigua, Bar­ba­dos, Do­minica, Guyana, Ja­maica, and St Kitts, as well as other small is­land states in the In­dian Ocean and the Pa­cific.

Other fund­ing op­tions are also be­ing con­sid­ered. Re­cently, Ja­maica’s Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness in­di­cated that Ja­maica is to work with its in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners to pur­sue debt for cli­mat­e­change swaps. Such an A man walks along a con­struc­tion site on Con­stant Spring Road, St An­drew on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 7. The road­way in the vicin­ity of the Mar­ket­place com­mer­cial com­plex is be­ing re­paired fol­low­ing its col­lapse from rains as­so­ci­ated with Hur­ri­cane Matthew. Peo­ple stand on the pier as waves crash as of Hur­ri­cane Matthew ap­proaches on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 6 in St Au­gus­tine, Florida.

ap­proach, he says, has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide fis­cal re­lief while help­ing to un­lock cli­mate fi­nanc­ing to fund adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion ini­tia­tives.

What is clear is that when it

comes to fund­ing, the treaty agree­ment as is so far lit­tle more than an as­pi­ra­tional frame­work.

For this rea­son, at the forth­com­ing cli­mate change con­fer­ence

in Mar­rakesh in Novem­ber, CARICOM will need – to­gether with its Al­liance of Small-Is­land States – the global group­ing which brings to­gether small is­land and low-ly­ing coastal coun­tries that share sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ment con­cerns – to hold the world to ac­count for what has been agreed.

This will not just be a test of the Caribbean’s stay­ing power and the will­ing­ness of re­gional gov­ern­ments to fund and sup­port a con­tin­u­ing fo­cus. It will also re­quire the Caribbean to re­mind the coun­tries that it sup­ported dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, and which ex­pressed con­cern about the im­pli­ca­tions of cli­mate change for the re­gion, of their com­mit­ments.

Put more bluntly, it is now the time for China and Brazil, as much as the US and Europe, to en­sure that the sup­port for adap­ta­tion that the re­gion needs, now ma­te­ri­alises.

In this, both CARICOM and the CARICOM Cli­mate Change Cen­tre will con­tinue to have a crit­i­cal role in co­or­di­nat­ing the re­gional ef­fort. But it will also be up to in­di­vid­ual gov­ern­ments to main­tain the po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum, demon­strate a unity of pur­pose, and be de­ter­mined to ad­dress 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 ecosys­tems, 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 an is­sue on which the re­gion oc­cu­pies the mo­ral high ground and has pop­u­lar in­ter­na­tional sup­port.




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