Two high-level meetings hosted by the government of Saint Lucia in collaboration with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) came to an end on Thursday, January 29 at the Bay Gardens Hotel situated in the north – the country’s premier hotel belt.The gathering brought together a team of negotiators and ministers responsible for placing the region’s concerns on climate change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December of this year.
Fresh from climate discussions in Lima, Peru, the first assembly on January 26-27 saw the region’s negotiators sift through mounds of pertinent information so as to arrive at the most appropriate proposals that would arm ministers to take on the humongous challenge that lies ahead.
Ideally, the negotiators’ forum was meant to ensure that the region’s ministers are apprised of the critical political choices that will have to be made in the upcoming negotiations.
When the ministers joined the discussions on January 28 and 29, the negotiators, who had remained far beyond the prescribed closing time on both days, were in high spirits and equipped to brief them.Ministers were introduced to the functioning and operations of the UNFCCC negotiating processes and the areas that require ministerial intervention. The status of climate change negotiations, including key issues under negotiations, key decisions already taken, and outstanding decisions to be taken come December 2015 were discussed. Moreover, ministers were briefed on the priority political actions required at the level of the state which would in turn accelerate national and regional responses to climate change. Actions include, but are not limited to, discussions on national determined contributions, climate finance, national adaptation plans, the technology mechanism and the Kyoto Protocol.
Speaking of the significance of the meetings, Minister responsible for Sustainable Development, Environment, Energy, Science & Technology, and Chair of the ministers’ forum, Senator the Honorable, Dr. James Fletcher, said climate finance is a major issue in the negotiations for climate change. He commented: “There is a pledge of one hundred billion US dollars’ worth of climate finance by the year 2020 and one hundred billion dollars every year thereafter and we’re very far short of this. At the last pledging meeting for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), I think we were just past ten billion dollars. Now granted the GCF is not the only source of financing for climate finance, but we’re still very far short of one hundred billion dollars. We want to see a pathway that will get us to that one hundred billion dollars because it is very important for us.”
Dr. Fletcher, one of the more prominent voices and advocates for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the level of international climate change negotiations, is of the thinking that investments in various sectors such as tourism, infrastructure and health will allow Saint Lucia a measure of resilience and the ability to withstand some of the impacts of climate change. But there are areas, says Dr. Fletcher, where adaptation is not possible due to irreversible loss and damage. As an example, the minister points to coral reefs that are disappearing because of increased sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.
Noting the timeliness and success of the meeting, and the fact that climate change poses a real threat to the livelihoods of every citizen, Dr. Fletcher called on his colleague ministers within the wider region to guarantee unanimity in preparation and determination to articulate the position of CARICOM citizens at the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the UNFCCC in Paris in December.
Meantime a call has been made for more public awareness at all levels and across the region to ensure that citizens, government and non-state actors understand and appreciate the real threat of climate change.
The impending meeting is regarded as critical to small states as they strive to attain and maintain commitments from developed countries—commitments that countries like Saint Lucia will be afforded essential assistance, financial and otherwise, that will ensure the sustainable development of its people and its ecosystems.