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Climate Change – Time for Action

December 01 2014 - by Dr. David Lee, CLP's Environment Specialist

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the final instalment of their once-every-seven-year report indicates that "Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems"Climate change is real!

The highest ever recorded atmospheric CO2 concentration was logged in 2013 and the hottest 12-month period was recorded October 2013 - September 2014.  Despite growing efforts to slow CO2 emissions it increased by 2.2% per year between 2000 – 2010.  At this rate it will be difficult to achieve the agreed-upon definition for the threshold of dangerous climate change (2°C above pre-industrial levels).  The rate of Climate Change is worse than we thought!

If we continue "business as usual", analysis done by the Carbon Tracker Initiative estimates that we will reach the 2°C change in just 17 years from now, in 2031.  Climate change is accelerating.  At existing rates we are on course for a 4°C warming by 2100 and this is expected to result in substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, and constraints on common human activities with limited potential for human adaptation, in some countries.

Although the Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, it is among those that will be most severely impacted.  In common with other small island states in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, virtually every Caribbean nation is at risk from rising sea levels as a consequence of global warming.  This is because virtually all of the Caribbean's major infrastructure, its utilities, and the industries that contribute the most to employment and GDP, are located on low-lying coastal plains within five miles of the sea or, in some cases, are below sea level.

The time for action is now.  Next week in Lima, Peru, the 20th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place. The meeting from December 1-12, will bring together governments and other interested parties to try to agree the draft text of a new and legally binding agreement that it is hoped will be signed by government leaders in Paris in December 2015.

The Caribbean’s case is among the most pressing in the world.  The Caribbean needs to demonstrate why, as a low carbon-emitting region that is dependent on the environment for its future prosperity that it must directly benefit from any Climate Change Agreement to adapt and survive.  However, to effectively do this the Region must act together

CARICOM countries should build on the historic announcement by China's president, Xi Jinping, and US President Barack Obama that that they are prepared to commit their nations to a target for cuts in carbon emissions, an announcement that has changed fundamentally the dynamics of the fraught politics surrounding growth, development and climate change.

CARICOM countries form part of the 44-member AOSIS. Together, they account for 20% of the United Nations membership, 28% of developing countries and 5% of the global population.  This potentially makes the CARICOM states a force with which to contend at climate negotiations if they act together.  A point that was made recently by James Fletcher, head of the CARICOM Taskforce on Sustainable Development and also St Lucia's Minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, and Technology. 

Do you know the position your government will take? 

Have you spoken to your climate change negotiator?

Do you know if your climate change negotiator has spoken to the others in the Region? 

Do you know if there is a Caribbean position going into the talks? 

If not, why not?

The need for transformed and transformative leadership to take action leading to a sustainable future for the Caribbean has never been greater!