France Hears Region’s Climate Change Concerns

Meeting in M’ique Ahead of December Paris Talks.

FRENCH President Francois Hollande says he supports calls by Saint Lucia and other Caribbean states for greater access to Climate Finance and for developed countries with the most greenhouse emissions to take greater responsibility for cleaning-up the global effects.

The French President spoke during a Caribbean Climate Change Conference in Martinique, which was also attended by leaders from CARICOM and OECS territories, as well as from non-independent overseas territories in the wider Caribbean, including the British Virgin Islands and the Dutch Antilles.

The meeting last Saturday heard Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony, who has lead responsibility for Sustainable Development and Climate Change within CARICOM, call on the French President to address the Caribbean’s Climate Change concerns ahead of an upcoming global Climate Change conference in Paris in December.

Anthony, who was accompanied by Saint Lucia’s Minister for Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and technology Senator Dr James ‘Jimmy’ Fletcher and Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to CARICOM and the OECS Dr June Soomer, said Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Saint Lucia could see their economies wrecked by forced expenditure on loss and damage from climate change effects.

The Saint Lucia Prime Minister said such funds could instead be spent on human and social development, but only if more assistance is given by developed nations to help the Caribbean mitigate, as well as resist and fight Climate Change effects.

He noted that while the entire Caribbean only accounted for less than 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it bears the brunt of climate change’s effects — such as sea level rise and extreme weather events that can cost as much as 6% of GDP to address.

Anthony pointed out that a two-metre sea level rise in the Windward Islands (Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada) could put entire coastlands — including communities, ports and airports — at risk.

It could also threaten the existence of over one million people in the smaller islands.

The Saint Lucia PM noted that Caribbean island beaches are disappearing, coral reefs are dying, fish migration patterns are changing and drought seasons are getting longer and more intense.

He that while developed countries had agreed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to restrict global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, at the current rate, global temperatures were set to increase by a potentially catastrophic 4 degrees Celsius.

Dr Anthony also noted that the low rate of capitalization by developed countries of climate finance instruments like the Green Climate Fund meant that developing countries were very far away from getting access to the US$ 100 billion pledged annually from 2020.

Prime Minister Anthony said the Caribbean needed quicker access to Climate Financing to ensure more and better adaptation possibilities that would minimize damage and increase resilience.

He noted Saint Lucia and other island territories were taking early steps to ensure sustainable development, engaging in new renewable energy initiatives including wind, solar and geothermal energy.

He reported that Saint Lucia recently launched several renewable energy projects and had pledged to reduce dependence on fossil fuels for energy by 20% by 2020, with projections now revised for achievement by 2017, three years ahead of schedule.

But, he pointed out, the resources and finances needed to enhance mitigation, adaptation, capacity building, and address loss and damage are outside the Caribbean nations’ national capacities and they could not afford to borrow at retail rates, given their limited fiscal space.

Anthony said the islands were already losing access to grant and concessionary financing because of an unfair middle-income classification and the urgency was such that both science and evidence have shown that that every month of delay could be more costly.

He wanted to see the Paris meeting end with a legally binding agreement, based on recognition of the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’

He said such an agreement would see those nations that release more greenhouse gas emissions pay their fair share to the global clean-up of their effects.

The Saint Lucian leader also called for loss and damage to be addressed separately from adaptation, with support for capacity building and clear provision to ensure compliance to commitment.

By Earl Bousquet

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