UN chief says Caricom summit taking place at moment of maximum peril
A man attempts to cross a flooded road in Harbour View, St Andrew in this January 2020 Jamaica Observer file photo. Climate change has been blamed for a number of recent floods.

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) — United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Sunday said that the annual Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit is taking place at “a moment of maximum peril”.

He was making reference to the devastating effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic on health systems and tourism, as well as on economic growth and foreign investment, now exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

Addressing the 15-member regional integration grouping, Guterres highlighted the region’s diversity and climate action leadership, while outlining a series of actions to be taken in the face of the planetary crisis, the ongoing novel coranasvirus pandemic, and global financial challenges.

“Rich in diversity, uniting land and sea, and protecting fragile coastal ecosystems, mangroves are a fitting symbol of Caribbean nations — facing challenges, seizing opportunities, preserving natural gifts,” he told the summit.

Guterres told the 43rd summit of Caricom leaders that the small island, low-lying coastal states of the Caribbean are especially vulnerable to what he called “the biggest challenge facing our world today”, the climate crisis.

GUTERRES... the Caribbean is ground zero for the global climate emergency (Photo: AP)

“The Caribbean is ground zero for the global climate emergency,” he said, noting however that, unfortunately, it is not the only challenge the region is facing.

The secretary general told the Caricom leaders that bold solutions were necessary to tackle these issues.

He said, for instance, there was a need to match climate action to the scale and urgency of the crisis, calling for urgent and transformative emissions reduction to halt global warming at a 1.5C, support for adaptation from climate impacts, and financial assistance to secure resilience.

“I thank Caribbean leaders for helping to show the way. I am inspired by your many efforts to safeguard your incredible biodiversity and natural gifts, including by the efforts of the indigenous communities,” he said.

The UN secretary general said that more ambition and climate action are needed by all, but specially the G20 who account for 80 per cent of global emissions.

“The war in Ukraine cannot lead to short-sighted decisions that shut the door on 1.5C. With the commitments presently registered, emissions are still predicted to grow by 14 per cent through 2030. This is simply suicide — and it must be reversed.”

Guterres said that wealthier countries need to lead the way in a just and equitable “renewables revolution”, and they need to fulfil their promise to deliver US$100 billion in climate finance for adaptation, starting this year.

“And it is time for a frank discussion and space for decision-making regarding the loss and damage that your countries are already experiencing.”

He said reforming “a morally bankrupt” global financial system and spurring sustainable recovery were also needed, noting that developing economies need access to financing at no or low costs, as well as debt relief and restructuring.

“On the debt side we need immediate relief for developing countries whose debt is about to become due,” he said, adding that he fully supports the creation of a Caribbean Resilience Fund and the reform of the international financial system to help the region better respond and prevent massive vulnerability to external shocks.

“Clearly, our old metrics have failed us. It’s time to change them,” Guterres said, proposing to move beyond the financial system’s preoccupation with per capita income to instead establish a “multidimensional vulnerability index” to determine access to financial support.

“For your countries this would mean ensuring that the complex and interdependent factors of debt and climate change impact are captured in any eligibility analysis for debt relief and financing,” he told the regional leaders.

Guterres said there is also need to keep up the combat against the novel coronavirus pandemic, urging governments, organisations and pharmaceutical companies to work better together to locally produce tests, vaccines and treatments.

“We’re not out of the woods yet… And we need to continue working closely together to stop the spread of the virus across the Caribbean through proven public health measures, and prepare for future pandemics through bold investments in preparedness and training,” he stated, stressing that countries must never again be so unprepared.

Guterres, who will meet with the regional leaders during their summit, reaffirmed the support of the United Nations to the Caribbean to work towards these solutions.

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