Commonwealth: Commitment to Limit Global Warming or Face Irreversible Impacts

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland said there is urgent need for higher climate ambition to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 ° Celsius – or risk severe and irreversible impacts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
  • by Desmond Brown (madrid)
  • Inter Press Service

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has expressed concern that if this persists, the majority's efforts to create platforms to unleash climate action suitable for averting catastrophic warming will be thwarted.

World Resources Institute explains that "in the climate negotiations, "ambition" refers to countries' collective will—through both domestic action and international initiatives—to cut global greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet the 2°C goal".

As the United Nations climate negotiations, the 25th Conference Of The Parties (COP25), is nearing an end, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland said there is urgent need for higher climate ambition to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 ° Celsius – or risk severe and irreversible impacts.

"We've never seen disasters on this scale before – bigger than ever, seas are rising, there's increased desertification, increase in drought," Scotland told IPS.

"The fight is on. Nobody ever knows how a COP will go until the end, so there's a lot of us who are advocating for greater ambition because we have no choice."

  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is imperative that global warming be held to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. It also warns that global warming of 2 ° C would have devastating impacts on the planet, including more frequent extreme weather events, flooding and drought.
  • A special report from the IPCC defines global warming as "an increase in combined surface air and sea surface temperatures averaged over the globe and over a 30-year period".
  • The report, entitled Global Warming of 1.5 ° C: An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, uses comparisons to the 1850 to 1900 period as an approximation of pre-industrial temperatures.

Scotland said an ideal outcome from COP 25 would be recognition of the IPCC's findings.

"A recognition that we have no time. A recognition that the IPCC reports are correct and that we now have an aggressive implementable, action-oriented plan, which every single country is going to be committed to delivering. That would be my dream," Scotland said.

"If you look through everything the Commonwealth is doing, we too are tired of talk; we want to do. We are committed to doing."

Scotland said commonwealth countries are living climate change.

  • This September, the Bahamas was hit by Hurricane Dorian, resulting in initial damages already totalling $3.4 billion, equal to one-fourth of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • The catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season affected many Caribbean states, resulting in an estimated 3,300 deaths and damages estimated at $282 billion.
  • In Dominica, Hurricane Maria resulted in total damages of $931 million or 236 perecent of their 2016 GDP.

"We are living with the sea rises, we are living with coastal erosion, we are living with the degradation of habitats, we are living with the reality of what climate change means, and we're fighting," Scotland said.

"It is not enough for us to talk. All of us need to do constructive things, which will make it incrementally better and more achievable for us to get where we can go. I think we can do it, but we haven't got a lot of time.

"I've said before, human genius got us into this mess, and human genius is going to have to get us out. And I know that the people of the Caribbean and the people of the Commonwealth, we have a lot of genius, so we are going to have to utilise it very quickly," she added.

Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General at the CARICOM Secretariat, said the expectation coming into COP 25 was that it was all about ambition.

For the Caribbean, he said, ambition is about trying to have member states committing to keeping the global temperature rise to below 1.5 ° C.

"We know that is a big challenge, and the ambition we want is that there will be a recommitment of all, especially the big polluters, with their Nationally Determined Contributions," Slater told IPS.

"In other words, what will they be doing to decrease greenhouse gasses and therefore keep temperatures down? Quite frankly, we are informed that there was supposed to be what you call a stock taking at this meeting, where we would have an idea of where we are. We're told that that might now come out. If it doesn't come out, we still hope that we will be on our way."

Slater said Caribbean countries will continue to put moral pressure on big polluters as they were causing the problems and should commit to solving them.

"We're seeing the horrible storms, but it is not just those. There are the slow onset events – that is, as the temperature rises and the level of the sea, we are losing land, we're losing out mangroves, we are losing out coral reefs," Slater said.

"We want that reality coming out of this COP, that we send a message strong enough so that the bigger players understand and to put some moral pressure on them to say ‘hey, we are part of the universe. We have a right to be here, and that right we have to be here depends on all of us working together.'"

© Inter Press Service (2019) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service