Countries On the Frontline of Climate Change Impact Call for Stronger Mitigation Commitments

Damage caused by Hurricane Irma in Road Town, on the British Virgin Island of Tortola. Caribbean leaders want larger countries to pick up the pace at which they are working to meet the climate change challenge and keep global warming from devastating whole countries. Courtesy: Russell Watkins/DFID
  • by Desmond Brown (san francisco and st. john’s)
  • Monday, September 24, 2018
  • Inter Press Service

Diann Black-Layne, ambassador for Climate Change in Antigua and Barbuda's ministry of agriculture, lands, housing and the environment, said that at present, most studies show that globally we are on track for a 3-degree Celsius temperature rise before the end of this century.

She pointed to extreme impacts already being experienced, such as greater storms, melting ice caps, increased overall temperatures, species fragmentation, increased invasive species and many other impacts.

"Currently, we need to be below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably at 1.5 degrees, to see a drastic improvement in climate," Black-Layne told IPS.

"To put this in context, globally we are already 1 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels."

Black-Layne added that governments must back words with action and step up to enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020 in line with the Paris Agreement and the ratchet up mechanism.

Although the contributions of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to greenhouse gases are negligible, every little action towards alleviating climate change counts.

"More importantly, a global agreement requires everyone to do their part, to build trust and encourage others to act," Black-Layne said.

"SIDS can be some of the early movers to decarbonise our economies – that means growing an economy without growing emissions."

At the recent Talanoa Dialogue held in September in San Francisco, newly-elected prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley said while the Caribbean countries are not responsible for causing the greatest changes in the climate, they are the ones on the frontline. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Meanwhile, at the recent Talanoa Dialogue held this month in San Francisco, newly-elected prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley said while the Caribbean countries are not responsible for causing the greatest changes in the climate, they are the ones on the frontline.

"Dominica was hit by Irma and Maria, in fact devastated to the tune of 275 percent of its GDP last year. And that came on top of Erica which devastated communities and led to loss of life," said Mottley, whose Barbados Labour Party won all 30 seats in the May 24 election.

"This is our lived reality in the Caribbean. This is not an academic discussion. This is difficult for us. And therefore, when the discussions took place between whether it is 1.5 or 2 , others could wallow in the ease of an academic discussion. For us it will have implications for what communities can survive in the Caribbean, in the Pacific and different other parts of the world."

In 2015, 196 Parties came together under the Paris Agreement to transform their development trajectories so that they set the world on a course towards sustainable development, aiming at limiting warming to 1.5 to 2° C above pre-industrial levels.

Through the Paris Agreement, parties also agreed to a long-term goal for adaptation – to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production. Additionally, they agreed to work towards making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

In June 2017, United States president Donald Trump ceased all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord.

That includes contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries to adapt to climate change and expand clean energy) and reporting on carbon data (though that is required in the U.S. by domestic regulations anyway).

But the U.S. remains part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Forty years ago, Barbados commenced the use of solar water heaters through tax incentives.

Today, Mottley says, no one in the country thinks about building a house without a solar water heater.

"That simple example showed us how the change of behaviour of citizens can make a fundamental difference in the output. We aim by 2030 to be a fossil fuel-free environment but we can't do it just so," she said.

Explaining that Barbados has recently entered a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund, she lamented that her new government inherited a situation where Barbados is the third-most indebted country in the world today.

"It means that our options for development and financing are seriously constrained but our reality to fight what is perhaps the gravest challenge of our time continues. We cannot borrow from the World Bank or other major entities because we're told that our per capita income is too high," Mottley said.

"But within 48 hours, like Dominica, we could lose 200 percent of our GDP. That is the very definition of vulnerability if ever there was one. And unless we change it we are going to see the obliteration or civilisations or we're going to see problems morph into security and migration issues that the world does not want to deal with."

© Inter Press Service (2018) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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