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Elevate loss and damage as key climate justice issue – CARICOM SG argues at Yale Conference

While CARICOM Member States have made significant strides to address the climate crisis, they will not achieve significant moderation in climate change because they are not the source of climate change.

Therefore, the systemic global and national inequities confronting small states need to be addressed to achieve climate justice, CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett said on Thursday. The key to addressing the inequities, she said, is to “elevate loss and damage as a key climate justice issue” that also has the endorsement of developed countries, and to have equitable and effective access to affordable funding for mitigation adaptation.

She was at the time addressing the Fourth Annual Global Environmental Justice Conference at Yale University in the US. The theme of the Conference is ‘Re-imagining Our Collective Future: Advancing Climate Justice, Food Security and Energy Transition in an Age of Uncertainty’. Her address focused on the intersection of equitable climate action and sustainable development.

Within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), loss and damage for the Caribbean Community represents the negative impacts of climate change to which “we either cannot adapt or have not adapted, because such adaptation requires access to funding – funding which should be provided, in the interest of justice, by developed countries who are responsible for the destructive impacts we now face”.

The Secretary-General expressed 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, is not a recurring agenda item for negotiations and has been found, through subsequent reviews, to be an area where the UNFCCC has much work to do. The question about who pays for loss and damage, or even that a loss and damage financing facility is necessary remains a burning issue. SIDS are, therefore, seeking to mitigate, adapt and respond to loss and damage in a less than propitious environment,” she told her audience.

She noted Denmark’s acknowledgement of loss and damage as a consequence of climate change and its offer of compensation to developing countries, and called on others to follow its lead.

Pointing to the significant strides the Region has made to address the climate crisis, she said: “However, as ambitious as these steps may be, the truth is that even if we do all and everything that we can do, we will not be able to achieve significant moderation of climate change or effectively address the peculiar factors that are at the root of the climate crisis in our countries and SIDS, in general, because we are not the source of climate change,” Dr. Barnett said.

She pointed out that the climate crisis is now the “greatest collective challenge that modern humanity has confronted” which has spawned environmental, social and economic upheavals in the Caribbean.

As an example, the Secretary-General highlighted the experience of Dominica – now aiming to become the world’s first climate resilient country – which suffered damage of about 220 per cent of GDP from Hurricane Maria five years ago, and, just two years later, 90 per cent of GDP loss from Tropical Storm Erika.

She spoke of the impacts of climate change on different communities within SIDS, including farmers, fishers and seasonal workers whose livelihoods are affected by extreme weather events; the elderly and differently abled who do not have the flexibility of resources or able hands to both prepare for and recover from storms; indigenous and rural communities whose connectivity with the rest of the country, as well as traditional livelihood and cultural practices are considerably impacted through disruptions in the physical infrastructure and the natural ecosystem. 

In addition, she drew attention to the risks the climate crisis poses to vulnerable ecosystems, physical infrastructure, productive sectors and key foreign exchange earning sectors such as tourism and agriculture; the impacts of the COVID-19; the “very fundamental threats of food insecurity, energy insecurity”; inadequacies of health systems in the Region; and connectivity infrastructure matters.

For the Caribbean, building climate resilience is critical as the 1.5 degree temperature target is unlikely to be met.

In her address, the Secretary-General repeated the call for a “just metric” that will take into account the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of SIDS to broaden access to affordable funding.

Please read her address here

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