The Prime Minister has used a global forum on climate change to make a case for a change in the economic climate facing tiny island nations like Barbados on a fragile development frontline
She issued a call for equity and fairness for all, as she complained to an international grouping that small developing nations continue to eke out their livelihoods with the little they had while under increasing pressure from multilateral agencies.
The Prime Minister was addressing the Talanoa Dialogue on Climate Ambition in San Francisco on Wednesday.
A product of the global Paris Agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming, the Talanoa Dialogue is a process designed to help countries implement and enhance their nationally determined contributions under the agreement by 2020.
Mottley said it was unfortunate that Barbados could no longer access funding from the World Bank because its per capita income had graduated it to middle-income status, while it was still vulnerable to natural disasters and its economy could be wiped out in the blink of an eye.
Mottley warned that given the vulnerability of small states, unless there was change in how multilateral organizations treat to small island developing states “we are going to see the obliteration of civilizations or we are going to see problems morph into security and migration issues that the world does not want to deal with”.
Adding that the voice of “vulnerable small states” needed to be recognized, Mottley pledged Barbados’ support in developing a policy framework in tackling issues of climate change.
But she warned that it should not be just about talking, since urgent action was needed.
“If anything is to come from this then it has to be equity and fairness among the seven billion human beings that populate this earth. It has not come in the global community and unless environment moves beyond the discussion about climate change but fundamentally about development and justice we will be having this discussion a few years from now but with greater and graver consequences that we do not want to have,” she said, while recalling last year’s hurricanes that devastated Dominica and other Caribbean islands.
Pointing out that Barbados was putting things in place to ensure its preparedness, Mottley said the country was doing so “against a back ground of a tight fiscal situation where the development discussions no longer takes place for the developing countries, where security people talk to security people, where finance people talk to treasury, where foreign affairs people talk to state and where leaders do not talk about development anymore and the choice is for our people”.
Mottley said it was ironic that while small developing states were not the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and other things that have led to the greatest changes in climate conditions “we are the ones on the frontline”.
“In spite of that we continue to have our policy space being made smaller and smaller, whether by reason of the international business and financial services as a viable development option now being challenged by the OECD countries or the EU; whether with respect to our failure to access funding not just at the level of our governments, but at the level of our citizens, at the level of our non-governmental organizations.
She told the audience of the staff level agreement between Barbados and the International Monetary Fund reached last week, as she highlighted the country’s national debt, which now stands at just over 170 per cent of gross domestic product.
“It means that our options for financing are seriously constrained but our reality to fight what is perhaps the greatest challenge of our times continues,” she said.
Launched last year at the UN climate change conference, the Dialogue’s mandate is to take stock of the collective global efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The goal of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is to limit the rise in average global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels of nearly 200 years ago, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.