No Time For Hyperboles: Caribbean Leaders Bring 1.5 Degrees to The Fore


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by Dizzanne Billy – CNS Contributor

PARIS, France, Dec 01 2015Armed with words as ammunition, an unprecedented 147 Heads of State kicked off COP21 with strong statements concerning their country’s stance on the overall climate agreement.

Eager to show they’re moving in line with the overwhelming shifts toward public demand for a renewable energy-powered and climate resilient world, Caribbean leaders joined in, pushing for stronger recognition of the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony leads by example. This country has been taking a very serious approach to championing the positions of SIDS. He truly hit them with his best shot, stating that “the devastating effects of climate change on our countries are well known and documented. There is no need to rehearse the facts. Yet, despite irrefutable evidence and scientific data, there appears to be a sinister attempt to downplay and negate the unique vulnerabilities of our states in the outcome of COP21. My country wishes to state unequivocally that this is one principle that is neither negotiable nor open to reinterpretation.”

Negotiators from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are resolved on reaching a deal which will limit the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To island states, from the Pacific to the Caribbean, the 2 degrees Celsius goal is insufficient and will not address the suffering of developing countries. The Caribbean leaders are saying that we need to reinvent the best-case scenario in a way where it reflects the needs of the entire world and not just the privileged few.

So don’t you dare go around spouting ideas about the practicality or feasibility of the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

According to Monica Araya of Costa Rica Limpia, “this is not about feasibility, it is about the moral case. Two degrees may be safe for some countries but for others it is a threat to their very survival.”

Just as the ocean needs the shore, vulnerable countries need the 1.5° goal to be clearly stated as a cornerstone of the new climate agreement. “If I am found to speak with passion it can only be explained by the fact that I represent a Small Island Developing State which like others in common is characterised by its unique circumstances and special vulnerabilities,” St. Lucia’s Prime Minister said.

Indeed, the voices of the most vulnerable and those which have the least capacities to engage in adaptation and mitigation projects must be listened to and represented in the final agreement.

Hailing from the Caribbean island that is unfortunately most known as the birthplace of Rihanna, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart put in his two cents. He stated that the amalgamated INDCs will not realise the 1.5 degrees Celsius global goal and that is the main ambition of SIDS.

He is not wrong either, based on a report which informs that climate targets submitted to the UN lead to global emissions far above the levels needed to hold warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Climate change for the Caribbean and other SIDS, is real and present. Speaking about the survival is not just rhetoric for these leaders and they do not appear to be ready to bargain. Caribbean islands have been established as some of the most vulnerable countries, with very little ability to deal with the onslaught of drastic weather patterns and the outcomes of these. The call for inclusion of their needs is strong and it must not go unheard.

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