“1.5 to stay alive.”
What’s that? By the end of a recent journalists’ training workshop in Kingston, we were all muttering this slogan to ourselves as we left the Liguanea Club. The workshop, sponsored by the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, the United Nations Development Program and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was part of an important National Consultation Programme in preparation for the UN Climate Negotiations in Paris, France this coming December. We have come to know this “crunch time” meeting as COP21. And we are talking about 1.5 degrees.
At the meeting, Dr. Michael Taylor, who heads the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, tossed some figures at us, all the while reminding us that an increase in global temperatures is “inevitable,” and that climate change is “already happening and will continue to happen.” But why are those numbers (not large numbers, but large in their impact) so important? Well, the nations meeting at COP21 are already talking about an increase of two degrees as being an acceptable goal to work towards in their pledges to combat global warming. Dr. Taylor divulged that, during a meeting of international scientists, nothing less than 2.5 degrees was considered worthy of modeling (in other words, creating predictive scenarios). The international partners are hoping to agree on two degrees. Hoping.
Hold on a minute. I thought we said 1.5? Well, Jamaica is a member of the 25-year-old Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which will be negotiating in Paris. Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives is AOSIS’ chief negotiator. AOSIS is adamant that, as Dr. Taylor puts it, “Two [degrees] may equal too much” (another phrase that rang in our ears at the Kingston workshop). Two degrees or above may very well be catastrophic for low-lying small islands, AOSIS strongly believes; they will simply (and literally) be overwhelmed.
Now, Panos Caribbean (a cheerleader for climate change awareness for years now), the Government of Saint Lucia and other regional partners are spearheading a campaign, using the creative arts, called the Caribbean Campaign on Climate Justice, to reinforce AOSIS’ “1Point5tostayalive” stance (yes, you’ve guessed it – that’s the hashtag).
As Dr. Michael Taylor said in his inimitable way: “Is this target reasonable? Is it realistic? Is it required?”
All depends on Paris. Let us see.
Here is Panos Caribbean’s press release on the new campaign, launched last week in Castries, St. Lucia.
Caribbean poet issues call to action on climate change
CASTRIES, Saint Lucia, 12 October 2015 — “The arts can make us act, and we need action in response to the threats, the realities of climate change”.
These were the words from award-winning Saint Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte, speaking at the launch of a Caribbean Campaign on Climate Justice at the Orchid Garden here last Thursday evening.
The purpose of the campaign — dubbed #1point5tostayalive —is to raise awareness, momentum and popular support in favour of the Caribbean’s negotiating position in the lead-up to the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Paris in December.
“The message is 1.5 to stay alive,”said Saint Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, and Technology Dr. James Fletcher.
“The Caribbean needs a legally binding global agreement that keeps temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100,” he added.
According to the minister, who is also patron of the campaign, the Caribbean also wants this agreement to provide adequate, predictable and accessible climate financing to support adaptation, mitigation and other climate change-related needs in poor and vulnerable countries, including small island states.
Climate impacts — including elevated temperatures, sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns, more intense droughts, storms, and ocean acidification — all pose grave risks to coastal lands, water supply, agriculture, biodiversity, fisheries and other sectors and assets. But it goes beyond this. Climate change threatens the very existence of some Caribbean islands.
“These are pretty serious issues,” noted Hippolyte. “We need to tell the world what we feel and what we want”.
The poet, who has a long history of engagement in social and environmental justice, on Thursday called on “musicians, painters, dancers, writers, all artists to become involved in this campaign by using their arts, their shows, their websites, their Facebook accounts and their concerts” in the coming weeks, to join the call of Panos Caribbean and its partners for Climate Justice for the Caribbean.
In particular, he called for participation in a weekend of action on 31 October – 1 December, exactly a month prior to the start of the Paris Conference.
The #1point5tostayalive campaign is a joint effort of Panos Caribbean; Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology; the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre; the Regional Council of Martinique; and the Caribbean Development Bank.