Caribbean welcomes the new climate change agreementTuesday, December 15, 2015
Caribbean Community governments and regional organisations have welcomed the new climate change agreement concluded in Paris at COP21. We join in that accolade.
The main outcomes include a goal of keeping warming well below two degrees Celsius and, for the first time, an agreement to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The pact also calls for a review of pledges every five years, and the adequacy of actions, with the intention of raising the level of ambition. To inform further national and global efforts, the agreement puts in place a mechanism to assess collective progress on global mitigation action using the best available science. This process will begin in 2018 and occur every five years to help inform countries’ future targets and strategies. The agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source and to report on information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving the targets and strategies countries have put forward.
Apart from the goals of the agreement, there are a number of positives.
First, the agreement, while not everything everybody wanted, is more than the lowest common denominator. It does provide targets and goals which, if implemented fully and on a timely basis, can have a beneficial impact on the existential threat of climate change. It puts a definitive end to the debate about whether the actions of mankind, in particular industrial gases, have an adverse effect on climate.
Second, the agreement demonstrates that the international community can work together to address major shared global crises. It was a triumph of enlightened interest in a multilateral setting over selfish national interests and short-sighted commercial interests. The agreement brings to an end six years of preparation and, quite frankly, scepticism about the outcome, the level of ambition, and whether the United Nations system could function.
Third, small countries were heard loud and clear, proving that small states can exert influence on international issues when they work together and have a valid case. The forum and nomenclature of small island developing states was a very effective vehicle of influence in a meeting of 197 countries. This will reinvigorate those in leadership whose spirits were flagging on debt relief and reparation.
Fourth, regardless of what is accomplished on the national level and the sub-national community level, it is indispensable to have common multinational action at the global level. That failure in Copenhagen in 2009 led many to focus on actions at the institutional, industry and community levels. This, while useful, cannot adequately deal with issues which are global or regional in a geographic sense.
More has to be done to provide financial assistance to poor and developing countries so that they can meet the goals of the agreement. In that regard, the United States must be commended for doubling its grant-based, public climate finance for adaptation by 2020.
It is a historic accomplishment of international unity and commitment to global action. The responsibility for implementation is that of international organisations, governments, and the totality of citizens of the world.