Climate Change: “Tragedies already with us”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When it comes to the impacts of climate change, the Caribbean countries are speaking “not of tragedies in the making but tragedies already with us,” Dominica’s Ambassador to the OAS and the United States, Hubert Charles, explained in an interview.

More than 150 countries are meeting in Paris this month for the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), trying to forge an agreement to limit carbon emissions and cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius above average pre-industrial levels—the threshold that has been identified as necessary to prevent catastrophe. With the slogan “1.5 to Stay Alive,” the Caribbean nations have argued that the world needs to set even more ambitious goals.

Consequences of warmer global temperatures include rising seas, droughts, and stronger and more frequents storms, to name a few. U.S. President Barack Obama met in Paris with the leaders of a number of small island nations, including Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados. “I grew up on an island and understand both the beauty but also the fragility of island ecosystems,” said the Hawaii-born Obama, who underscored that island populations “are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.”

Small island developing states contribute little to climate change, emitting less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gases, “but we suffer disproportionately from its effects,” Prime Minister Stuart said in a recent speech. “This is due to our intrinsic characteristics such as small size, limited resource base, foreign trade dependence, high vulnerabilities to external economic shocks and natural hazards, and limited capacity for mitigation and adaptation.”

In Paris, Prime Minister Stuart made the case for more access to low-cost financing to small island nations to “strengthen resilience to climate change.”

Given the indebtedness of many small island states and the regularity and increasing intensity of storms, the Caribbean countries want a robust assistance regime in place to help with reconstruction. Dominica, for one, is facing the challenge of finding $483 million to recover from Erika. “It boggles the mind,” Ambassador Charles said.