Ministers of the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), met at the One Hundred and Fifth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) – Environment and Sustainable Development, on Friday 28 October 2022.
The Ministers considered the scientific and geopolitical context and the prospects of a global recession in 2023 which will have significant bearing on global action to address the polycrises of climate, energy, food, health, environment, development and security;
They reiterated that global warming represents an existential threat to CARICOM and reaffirmed their full commitment to limit the increase in global temperature to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius;
The Ministers recalled that even prior to the current ongoing geopolitical disruptions in Eurasia, temperatures were slated to increase by 2.7 degrees by 2050 or 3.1 degrees by the year 2100 which would cause higher seas, stronger storms, extinction of plants and animals and increased deaths from heat, smog and infectious diseases.
In this regard, they also recalled that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability released earlier this year, confirmed that irreversible damage is already occurring to natural ecosystems, communities, and human rights, and will accelerate exponentially in terms of scale and pace if global temperature rise surpasses 1.5°C. The IPCC noted that the window of opportunity to correct course for 1.5 degree Celsius is narrow and constrained to the current decade. However, the recent UN Report on the Nationally Determined Contributions confirms that the world is off track, heading to an increase in emissions by 2030, and projecting end of century warming way beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Ministers assessed the signals from major economies’ responses to the current crises relative to their commitments under the Paris Agreement. They considered these signals to be dire. No major emitter has strengthened emissions targets pursuant to the call of the Glasgow Climate Pact (the Pact), and specifically the Paris Agreement long term temperature goal of 1.5°C. There is emergent information that fossil fuel subsidies have continued to increase amongst the Group of 20 as a whole and that the Group of Seven is considering new investments in coal and gas which represent a reversal of commitments under the Pact.
The Ministers expressed serious concern that halving emissions by 2030 will be compromised and that achieving net zero by 2050 will be missed. For CARICOM, any commitment delayed worsens its economic and climate reality. In this context, Ministers highlighted the region’s top priorities ahead of COP27. They considered the Sharm El-Sheikh Conference as the last global political moment in 2022 to recover the 1.5-degree narrative and to mark a turning point for ambition and for action especially as the world confronts multiple crises all at once.
The Ministers welcomed the opportunity to meet in Sharm El-Sheikh and expressed solidarity with Egypt in hosting an “Africa COP”. Appreciating the similar challenges that Africa and CARICOM face in financing adaptation to the ever-accelerating human induced climate change crisis even as countries of the region transition to low carbon economies, the Ministers endorsed adaptation as a high priority for the region. Ministers further called for the COP27 to make remarkable progress on elevating ambition for adaptation on equal footing with increased efforts for mitigation action.
They also endorsed the importance of maintaining the pressure for developed countries to take the lead in increasing mitigation, ambition and associated action, and for other major emitters to join in the ambition for maintaining the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees. They also supported the calls for greater investment and collaboration for a Just Transition agenda.
The Ministers noted that financing for the Region’s sustainable development and climate secure future is of paramount importance. As the Region’s small and highly vulnerable states continue to adapt, building its social resilience is even more critical. Both public and private sectors are on the frontline of increasingly intense hurricanes, floods, longer periods of drought, and intense heatwaves. The Ministers highlighted the need to catapult increasing investments in more resilient public transportation systems, emergency and disaster preparedness mechanisms, water and sanitation sectors, public health systems, agriculture, renewable energy, housing, land use, education and training as well as social safety nets.
The Ministers noted that, domestic resources are being stretched to the limits as the Region confronts a constant cycle of financing disaster recovery and rebuilding, even as it endeavours to develop low carbon, climate resilient pathways.
The Ministers emphasized that it is therefore critical that developed countries deliver on their goal to achieve the US$100 billion floor per year by 2023 and make a commitment to a transformative new climate finance goal in 2025. They reiterated the call for climate finance to be disbursed in addition to Official Development Assistance (ODA) and in the form of grants over loans so as not to adversely impact the debt profile of low-income and vulnerable countries.
Ministers underscored that the current climate and development finance architecture is not fit for purpose. It is exceedingly complex, does not operate efficiently, effectively, or fairly, neither at the speed and scale needed to address the urgent and pressing challenges faced by SIDS. Because many CARICOM Member States do not qualify for concessional funding due to a systemic reliance by international financial institutions and donors on GNI per capita for eligibility, they are forced to borrow to survive a crisis which they did not instigate. CARICOM considers that the application of GNI per capita undermines the global commitment to SIDS that have international status as a special case for sustainable development and the environment. CARICOM has been leading the charge to make the global development and climate finance architecture more responsive to the unprecedented needs of especially the most vulnerable such as the SIDS. To this end, CARICOM at the global level, through the United Nations, and regionally, through the Caribbean Development Bank, is advancing alternative metrics which take account of the Region’s vulnerabilities and susceptibilities to broaden access to affordable funding. Its Member States are also at the forefront of pioneering innovative approaches to public and private finance for building resilience and catalysing transformative climate action.
Ministers were gravely concerned for the cumulative impacts and compounding risks that are increasingly exacerbating loss and damage in the region. They reiterated their disappointment with the paucity of action at COP26 to respond to the SIDS demands to finally remedy the gap in finance for addressing loss and damage. They expressed with solemnity their firm resolve that COP27 must deliver on loss and damage finance.
The issue of loss and damage has for a long time been a priority of SIDS in general and CARICOM played a pivotal role in 2015, in Paris, to ensure that the issue was not lost from the Paris Agreement. Ministers also expressed their mounting concern about the absence of the requisite finding from the Developed countries in addressing the matter of Loss and Damage as dictated by the Climate Change Convention and the Paris Agreement. It is of significant concern that Loss and Damage has lagged far behind progress on mitigation and adaptation within the UNFCCC. To date, Loss and Damage has no specific funding stream, and has been found, through subsequent reviews, to be an area where the UNFCCC has much work to do. It remains a priority to the region and a pivotal axis for success in Sharm El-Sheikh.
CARICOM endorsed the following way forward for adoption at COP27: 1) a smooth adoption of the Finance agenda sub-item titled, “Funding arrangements to address loss and damage”, before work begins; 2) acknowledgement of the gaps in existing funding arrangements, especially under the UNFCCC, as well as the urgent and immediate need for new, additional, adequate and predictable financial resources to assist developing countries to meet the cost of the ex-post responses to loss and damage; 3) an agreement to establish a new, fit-for-purpose multilateral fund designated as an operating entity of the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism; and 4) a commitment for the further design and operationalize the multilateral fund through an ad-hoc committee for intersessional work. The outcome of the Fund’s design and set up would then be completed by COP28 in 2023. The UNFCCC must protect the most vulnerable states in a just transition, leaving no one behind, or risk being viewed as a critical failure in the system.
Specifically in relation to climate change, the IPCC has advised that the mitigation potential of SIDS relative to their contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, remains limited while they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human-induced climate change. Additionally, the United Nations has stated that SIDS are being disproportionately and increasingly impacted by climate change while their special circumstances make them extremely vulnerable to other external shocks such as geopolitical tensions, market volatilities, supply disruptions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, the Ministers recognized that COP 27 will mark the end of a four-year period of CARICOM’s leadership of AOSIS. The region was privileged to witness and support the Chairmanship of Belize followed by Antigua and Barbuda and commend them for the excellent work done over the past four years. Going forward, CARICOM will continue to ensure that its voice remains strong within the AOSIS and the Group of 77 and China negotiating blocs. CARICOM looks forward to working with the incoming chairs of Samoa and Palau, respectively, to ensure that no opportunity is lost to make significant strides in the campaign to keep global warming well below the limits of 1.5 degree Celsius and to give us all a fighting chance to survive.