There is no denying the fact that the globe is warming at an alarming rate, and the Caribbean remains one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. According to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), in 2017, unprecedented storms caused more than $10 billion in damage across the region.
“And that’s at one degree of warming," said Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. "The world is currently on a path to well over three degrees of warming by the time a child born today reaches old age, even if countries meet the commitments made in the first round of the nationally determined contributions."
Mottley was referring to commitments countries made to reducing their climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement, a global accord aimed at addressing climate change.
Mottley was the only head of government from the Caribbean to address the Global Climate Action Summit last month in San Francisco. The summit brought together sub-national governments and businesses from around the world to commit to deeper action to curb global warming.
For countries like Belize and Barbados, efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius are imperative. Studies show that the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold called for in the Paris Agreement, would mean 10 centimeter higher global sea-level rise by the start of the next century, longer heat waves, and would put virtually all tropical coral reefs at risk of dying off.
“Belize is aligned more along the lines of the SIDS, the Small Island Developing States. And the main demand, the main request that SIDS are making is that we need to be more ambitious in reducing our commitment to cap emissions so that we maintain a global rise in temperature of only 1.5 degrees maximum," said Dr. Percival Cho, head of Belize's Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development.
"There is some general discussion that we could allow 2 degrees, but at the level of SIDS we are saying that we cannot afford a 2 degree increase in global temperatures because we are mostly low-lying states and we are prone to inundations, we are prone to hurricanes. And at 2 degrees the science has shown that Caribbean SIDS at least and SIDS elsewhere are going to take a very hard and difficult road ahead if we go with 2 degrees versus 1.5," Dr. Cho said.
It's important that the rest of the world do its part, as well as help vulnerable regions with limited adaptive capacity and high exposure to climate change threats, said Prime Minister Mottley, who used the GCAS platform to champion support for the Caribbean region.
“The world has lost all of us; lost momentum since Paris in 2015. And although the rate of increase has slowed, we have not yet peaked our global emissions and we must do so by 2020," Mottley said.
She called for more financing for efforts to reduce carbon emissions and stronger commitments from national governments, as well as individuals.
"An affordable climate finance, believe you me, is greatly needed, especially for small island states whose vulnerability is in front of you today as I speak," Mottley said. "The Green Climate Fund must be replenished, as it is our only hope in many instances. And access to these funds needs to be stream-lined. The agreements and goals that arose out of the week in Paris cannot be forgotten or cast aside, not anymore. The next round of nationally determined contributions will seal our fates for better or for worse. My friends, my friends across the world, the time for talk has passed. This is truly a time for action, not just the action of leaders and governments, but the actions of you, you and you and me.”
At the heart of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is the commitment by national governments to periodically review their progress toward reducing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions and ratchet up the ambitions of their national climate action plans, known as their Nationally Determined Contributions. The Global Climate Action Summit, set midway between when the United Nations' climate change conference was held in Paris in 2015 and its meet in 2020, was timed to encourage governments to step up their commitments and trigger progress toward this next level of ambition sooner rather than later.
This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.