The Caribbean at #COP21: A Few Gleanings from the Frontlines and At Home

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France is well under way now, and I have been picking up numerous articles that are of interest and relevant to the Caribbean on social media. It’s a little difficult to sort out – and almost impossible to know what is happening in terms of the day-to-day discussions and developments. I had been missing “on the ground” live tweets and reports from Caribbean – but am thankfully now plugged into Jamaican youth/women’s rights and climate justice advocate  Ayesha Constable, who has been tweeting (@EshaSensei) and blogging (http://ayeshaconstable.blogspot.com) from the Conference. Well done, Ayesha, keep that tweeting finger moving!

This beautiful painting by Jonathan Gladding is a contribution to the "1.5 To Stay Alive" campaign. (Photo: Contributed/Panos Caribbean)
This beautiful painting by Jonathan Gladding is a contribution to the “1.5 To Stay Alive” campaign. Gladding is a former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer living in St. Lucia. (Photo: Contributed/Panos Caribbean)

Where shall we start? Well, the “1.5 To Stay Alive” campaign seems to have caught fire at the Conference. As Panos Caribbean’s Petre Williams Raynor observes in her blog, this goal is firmly in the sights of all the Caribbean delegates in Paris. It’s sort of a “one track mind” – and it has to be. Dr. James Fletcher, Chair of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change (and also St. Lucia’s minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology) is insistent on it. You can read more on the campaign at Petre’s blog: https://willieraynor.wordpress.com/ and her regular articles in the Gleaner. The campaign has also launched a theme song, which you can hear at https://soundcloud.com/panos-caribbean Lyrics are by St. Lucian poet and climate activist Kendel Hippolyte and the music and production by Ronald Boo Hinkson. The artistes on the recording includeArtistes on the song include Banky Banx from Anguilla, BelO from Haiti, E.sy Kennenga from Martinique, Jessy Leonce, Ace Loctar, Taj Weekes, Deridee Williams and Shayne Ross from St. Lucia, David Rudder from Trinidad, and Aaron Silk from Jamaica. Some great voices there! For more information on the campaign, go to their comprehensive website: http://www.1point5.info/ or follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @1point5OK.

A huge landslide in Dominica.
A huge landslide in Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika in August of this year.

Here’s one example of the unbelievable damage climate change has already done to the environment (and the economy) of a small Caribbean island. According to a Caribbean360 report, “Tropical Storm Erika wiped out 90 per cent of Dominica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the rapid damage and impact assessment conducted by the island’s government in collaboration with the World Bank, United Nations, and other development partners with funding support from the EU and the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.” You can read more of this article here: http://www.caribbean360.com/news/dominica-loses-almost-all-its-gdp-due-to-climate-change-says-world-bank#ixzz3tO5NwJwE Loss and damage is an important topic for the Caribbean at COP21.

I also want to draw your attention to a beautifully written article by I. Rhonda King, currently the Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, in which she concludes: “Whatever happens in Paris this year, I have a dream, a Caribbean Dream, in which an eco-friendly consciousness arises and sets its sight on the perfect balance between being and doing.” The article is part of a series, “Voices from Small Island Developing States” produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with COP21. Here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/i-rhonda-king/the-green-legacy-of-saint-vincent-and-the-grenadines_b_8663006.html

Our Climate Change Minister, Robert Pickersgill, will NOT be representing Jamaica at the crucial Climate Change Conference. How odd. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)
Our Climate Change Minister, Robert Pickersgill, will NOT be representing Jamaica at the crucial Climate Change Conference. How odd. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

There have been protests and demonstrations involving youth from the hemisphere, reports Ayesha Constable from COP21 via her tweets and blog. She notes that the Canada Youth Delegation was annoyed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only wanted to do “selfies” with members, not meet and talk. “Youth want to be heard, not just seen,” their placards said. Engajamundo, a Brazilian youth-led organization focused on the environment, social development and gender, made their point with a “how low can you go?” limbo contest with passing delegates. Clever!

Caribbean youth posing at COP21 with Mary Robinson, former UN Human Rights Commissioner and a member of The Elders, who now leads a foundation dedicated to climate justice. (Photo: Ayesha Constable/Twitter)
Jamaica’s Ayesha Constable (left) and youth from the SDSN Network posing at COP21 with the awesome Mary Robinson, former UN Human Rights Commissioner and a member of The Elders, who now leads a foundation dedicated to climate justice (mrfcj.org) (Photo: Ayesha Constable/Twitter)

Now, my final concern is this. We have a Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill. At the time this ministry was created, the “Climate Change” aspect of this portfolio was commented on frequently. How enlightened, Jamaicans said, to have this focus on climate change (or was it now simply done to access overseas funds for projects, some wondered?) I soon discovered that the Climate Change Division of the ministry was extremely small – a handful of hard-working, good people; but tiny.

Anyway, I understand that Climate Change Minister Pickersgill will not be attending COP21 – probably the most important – crucial – global meeting of the century. It’s crunch time, Minister! Perhaps he is sick. Our Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson is there, but how much does he know about climate change? Nevertheless, Minister Nicholson stuck to the message, thus: “It is essential that Jamaica add its voice to support the cause of Small Island Developing States (SIDS_, who are the most affected by climate change. I hope that partners at the negotiating table demonstrate the sensitivity required to reach agreement on critical issues, such as curtailing emissions levels to 1.5 degrees – the goal promoted by SIDS – on loss and damage, financing, and capacity-building, among others…I remain hopeful that the existential threat which the climate change phenomenon represents for many countries, including Jamaica, and the demonstration of partnership evident in other fora, will lead ultimately to a binding agreement which meets our shared objectives.”

Members of the Jamaican delegation (from L-R) Ambassador Sheila Sealy Monteith, Under Secretary for the Multilateral Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Her Excellency Vilma McNeish, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union; Senator the Hon. Arnold J. Nicholson, QC, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Dr. Orville Grey, Senior Technical Officer in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, and Jeffrey Spooner, Head of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, at the Wider Caribbean Booth at the 21st Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, France. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade)
Members of the Jamaican delegation (from L-R) Ambassador Sheila Sealy Monteith, Under Secretary for the Multilateral Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Her Excellency Vilma McNeish, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union; Senator the Hon. Arnold J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Dr. Orville Grey, Senior Technical Officer in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, and Jeffrey Spooner, Head of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, at the Wider Caribbean Booth at COP21. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade)

I hope this will help you keep track of some of the issues affecting the Caribbean. There is a plethora of reports, articles and all kinds of initiatives on social media too, but it would be best to focus on anything coming from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) of which Jamaica is a member – and anything SIDS-related. There is so much more to say and discuss, but next I really want to focus on forests (a critical factor in terms of emissions) – having been inspired by my recent conversation in St. Ann on agroforestry.  Meanwhile, if you are on Twitter, go to http://www.tweetyourleader.org and send a message to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller – or whoever your political leader happens to be, urging him/her to get really serious and take action on climate change!

There will be more updates to follow. Really, I am just scraping the surface here… There is much more to be said about climate justice for the Caribbean, and there are also the issues of gender equity, water access, and more. Well, that’s all for now!

 

 


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