Daily Management Review

Paris Agreement could determine the fate of the Caribbean Islands


The 15 member island Caribbean Community is fighting an existentialism threat: unless countries the world over commits to a legally binding agreement so as to substantially check the rise of human induced global temperatures, storms and sea surges caused by Climate Change and Global Warming could, as per leading scientists, swallow the land they call home.

Although the Lima Accord in Peru last December provided some elements for continuing further negotiations on climate change for the next round of talks, the 15 member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) feels that the talks should have covered further ground and that they left the negotiations with “the bare minimum necessary to continue the process to address climate change”.
“The Lima Accord did decide that the Parties would continue to work on the elements in the Annex to develop a negotiating text for the new Climate Change Agreement. We wanted a stronger statement that these were the elements to be used to draft the negotiating text,” said Carlos Fuller, CRICOM’s Regional and International liaison.
“We did not get the specific mention that Loss and Damage would be included in the new agreement, but there is also no mention that it would not be included. On Intended Nationally Determined Contributions  (INDCs), we got an agreement that all parties would submit their contributions for the new agreement during 2015.
“However, we lost all the specifics that would inform parties on what should be submitted. We lost the review process for the INDCs and only those parties who wished to respond to questions for clarification would do so,” clarified Fuller.
Ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) December, slated to be held in Paris in December, the Lima talks were designed to be an opening rounds for negotiations for the 196 countries who are members of the United Nations.
The UNFCCC treaty is the main treaty based on which the Kyoto Protocol was founded in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol was designed to build on its parent treaty and was designed to carry through the objectives of stabilizing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels which will not be harmful to humans and will reduce the incidents of climate change. 192 countries had signed to that effect.
However, most countries have not stuck to their promises. That is why this December, all signatories to the U.N are meeting in Paris to sign a legally binding accord that will keep a check on human induced temperature rises, within boundaries, which as per scientists is likely to avert the catastrophic effects of climate change.
So as to not repeat the actions of the past, CARICOM negotiators are wanting to identify issues which act as a “red line”, which are essentially “sacrosanct” for their population, on which there is no backing down. Unlike in the past, they are now wanting to speak as one voice.
CARICOM’s lead negotiators have already come to Paris and have engaged Francois Hollande, the French Preident, so as to prepare and cover common grounds for the December convention.
“President Hollande, I guess, is intending to meet with CARICOM heads to get from them what are the main concerns of Caribbean small island developing states and to see how he can develop some momentum, some consensus leading to Paris. Our meeting was a meeting of technical experts to really refine what are our main positions, what are the issues that are sacrosanct for us, what are the red line issues, that, as far as we are concerned, any new agreement on climate change must address,” said James Fletcher - St. Lucia’s Minister for Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy Science and Technology.
These meetings are intended to create a list of initiatives which, as per CARICOM, “… must be integrated in a ‘schedule of solutions’ adapted to the specificities of these territories,”. It also naturally involves the creation of the preparatory draft of the globally binding agreement which is scheduled to be adopted during COP21.
What is crystal clear is that CARICOME’s negotiators are doing their due diligence ahead of the legally binding agreement. Their negotiators have kept a very busy schedule and since there is a range of issues, such as climate finance, adaptation, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, loss and damage, etc. which need to be covered, they have already had an early first round of negotiations in Geneva this year. This early round of negotiations are critical since “This really allows us to take stock of how the negotiations are going and what are the main issues and where we should be identifying with the negotiations,” says Fletcher.
With the way negotiations are moving, Fletcher is optimistic that a lot of ground will be covered, that CARICOME is making some good on its position on climate change. What he is glad about is the fact that the Caribbean seems “very united in its position on climate change”. Not content to rest on its achievements, he has already identified areas on which CARICOME can do more so as to shore up its positions, ahead of the December talks.
“I think what needs to happen a little more is coordination and this is what today’s meeting is about, ensuring that that coordination is there”.
Climate change could potentially wreak havoc in the Caribbean, and its effects are already being felt there. As per Fletcher, “We have been saying for a long time now that climate change represents an existential threat for small island developing states like the Caribbean, that we have to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and that anything above 1.5 degrees Celsius will cause catastrophic sea level rise, will cause warming of our oceans, will cause acidification of our oceans, which will impact our fisheries, impact our tourism sector, will cause reduction in water availability and that has impacts for agriculture, for ordinary lives, for availability and accessibility of potable water.”
Scientists have already proclaimed that the rise in global temperatures above 1.5 degrees will severely affect our weather systems and because of it the world will see more frequent occurrences of hurricanes and storms. Island nations, will naturally be more vulnerable to it. CARICOM takes this very seriously and it is reflected in their approach, for as Fletcher says, “… we have a very real stake in what comes out of Paris, and we cannot allow the Paris agreement to be one that we know will cause us to have a climate that is warming at a rate that is catastrophic for us, small island countries like ours, and low-lying countries like Guyana,”.