Caribbean countries are celebrating the adoption of a new accord that will pave the way for reducing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.
The deal, which was reached on Saturday night in Paris at the end of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), one day after the December 11 deadline, saw 196 developed and developing nations agree to take concrete steps to curb rising global temperatures.
During the November 30 – December 11 deliberations the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) reiterated their calls for a 1.5 degree Celsius cap on rising temperatures, citing their vulnerability to changing weather patterns.
In the end the final document reflected consensus among nations for a two degree limit above pre-industrial levels, while working towards the limit of 1.5 which was requested by SIDS.
The compromise was welcomed by the chairman of CARICOM’s Task Force on Climate Change, St Lucia’s Sustainable Development Minister Dr James Fletcher, who told the final plenary session on Saturday night that for the first time “in a long time”, SIDS felt their concerns were being heard at a COP.
“Our delegations witnessed a sincere interest to craft a fair, balanced and ambitious agreement that sought to address the needs of the most climate-vulnerable countries,” Dr Fletcher said.
“From the visit of President Hollande to the Caribbean earlier this year to meet with Caribbean leaders, to the three informal ministerial meetings co-hosted in Paris by COP20 President Manuel Pulgar Vidal . . . right through to COP21, there has been a genuine intention to engage, to listen, to discuss and to find solutions.”
Under the deal, countries will also be required to carry out an inventory of their efforts to cut their emissions every five years, as well as monitor, verify and report their emissions.
The Paris Agreement will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the last international treaty on climate change. It is due to take effect in 2020, and calls for developed countries to bear the cost of financing the transition towards a green economy.
“As part of a global effort, developed country Parties should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds, through a variety of actions, including supporting country-driven strategies, and taking into account the needs and priorities of developing country Parties.
“Such mobilization of climate finance should represent a progression beyond previous efforts,” the document said.
A significant victory for SIDS, was the inclusion for the first time, of the term “loss and damage” in the agreement.
“Parties recognize the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage,” the document stated.
“The separated treatment of Loss and Damage in the Agreement is also a most welcomed development. While I pulled these two elements out for special mention, we view this Agreement not as a combination of separate articles, but as a total package that will provide us with the legal framework for protecting our ecosystems, our islands, our people, our cultures and our planet,” Dr Fletcher told the conference.
Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Dr Didacus Jules said the Caribbean’s role in the final agreement was a testament to Caribbean unity.
“Never before has the Caribbean been as united and as single minded in an international conference of that importance before. We had all of the Caribbean countries working very closely together; the CARICOM structures worked effectively, we had all of the Caribbean countries represented,” Dr Jules noted.
He also recognized the contribution of the Regional Council of Martinique, whose diplomacy he said was critical in getting larger countries to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to below two degrees Celsius, and also “because they were able to get for the Caribbean a very strategic location, a Caribbean pavilion in the conference itself and the fact that we were so well located in the overall structure of the conference meant that the Caribbean pavilion became a sort of magnet point”.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim welcomed the new agreement, saying the world had forged a deal that “finally reflects the aspiration and the seriousness to preserve our planet” for future generations.
“First, it leaves no one behind, protecting the poorest people and the most vulnerable countries by calling on all of us to hold the increase in temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Second, it sends the much needed signal to trigger the massive sums of public and private sector investments needed to drive economies toward a carbon neutral world as advised by science… Third, it changes development. We agree there is no development without tackling climate change. We cannot poison the planet and thrive,” Kim stated.
He also noted that moving forward, it was now the “shared responsibility” of all countries to ensure that the conditions set out in the new climate pact were met.
“The World Bank Group is ready to help immediately and will do its utmost to realize this vision of prosperity,” Kim said.