Journalist and musicians from small island developing states like Grenada met in St. Lucia last week for a special meeting aimed at creating greater awareness among the region’s populace ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP21 meeting to take place in Paris, France in December.
According to Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Dr. Didacus Jules, the region is seeking to get industrialised countries to stop the actions in their own countries that have a negative trickle-down effect on the Caribbean.
Dr. Jules is calling for urgent and ambitious action to be taken by developed countries in achieving below 1.5 degrees centigrade as a long-term temperature goal and a benchmark for the level of global climate action to be included in the Paris agreement.
“The Alliance of Small Island States has made it clear that it wants below 1.5 degrees centigrade reflected as a long-term temperature goal and a benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year,” he said.
Dr. Jules was addressing a gathering at the opening of the meeting held at the Palm Haven Hotel at Rodney Bay Village in Gros Ilet, St Lucia.
Research has shown that the ecosystems within the region are approaching the limits of their adaptive capacities, posing significant challenges for the livelihoods of the people of the region.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Lesser Developed Countries (LCDs) continue to battle with the increasing impacts of climate change and the leaders of these countries are seeking to get global consensus on limiting average temperature increase to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with the belief that a set target rate lower than 1.5 degrees Celsius is enough to protect the region’s fragile ecosystems from the adverse impacts of climate change.
Dr. Jules outlined the position of these states at the upcoming meeting in Paris.
“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us….One point five to stay alive”, Dr. Jules charged.
He suggested that “countries that are high emitters of greenhouse gases should be responsible and should not seek any comfort to limiting global temperature rise to two degrees centigrade, but rather to below 1.5 degrees.”
A climate change declaration signed by Caribbean leaders at a climate change summit in Martinique last May makes a special appeal to the world’s richest countries to do their part to help small island developing states.
According to Dr. Jules, funding would also be high on the agenda, pointing to the high cost of recovery from former disasters.
He said that “proper financing to build resilience and prevent the disastrous impact is going to cost a lot of money.”
The St. Lucia meeting was also addressed by the Convener, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Dr. James Fletcher, who is the region’s lead spokesman at the negotiations in Paris.
Dr. Fletcher pointed out that if temperatures warm by 2 per cent, or more, it will cause rainfall to reduce by 10-20 per cent and that, coupled with the rising sea levels can have a devastating impact on life in the Caribbean.
“Almost every island of the Caribbean is going through a drought,” he said.
“Think of 10-20 per cent less water than what you have now and you will get an idea of how serious this problem is from a water security angle”, he added.
Dr. Fletcher noted that the world is projected to see a 1-2 metre rise in sea levels by the end of the 21st century.
“A one meter sea level rise in the Caribbean area would mean approximately 13 hundred square kilometre of land area being lost,” he argued.
Dr. Fletcher added that a rise in sea levels could displace 110,000 people, damage 149 tourist resorts, 5 power plants, 21 Caricom airports and inundate lands surrounding 35 Caribbean ports.
He stressed that a 2 per cent rise in sea level would do even more damage and cost the region billions to rebuild.
Dr. Fletcher expects participants coming out of the meeting to be more knowledgeable about the region’s position at COP21.
Negotiating points include the scaling up of finance and making it more accessible to countries, a strong legally binding legal framework, and the explicit goal of limiting long term global average temperature increase to below 1.5 above industrial levels.