The final draft of the Paris Climate Agreement was released Saturday and for Caribbean countries it was a cause for celebration.
Billed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as “differentiated, fair, durable, balanced and legally-binding,” it includes commitments to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also provides for finance to poor nations to help cut emissions and cope with the impact of extreme weather events. Nations affected by climate-related disasters will obtain much-needed aid.
Climate change experts say like any agreement of this scale, it is not perfect, but definitely worth celebrating.
For the countries of the Caribbean Community, known as Caricom, whose negotiations were led by Saint Lucia, it the temperature limits represent a major victory after an intense campaign called “1.5 to Stay Alive.”
In his address to COP21’s closing plenary on Saturday, Saint Lucia’s sustainable development minister, Dr. James Fletcher, said for the first time, in a long time, Caribbean small island states felt that their concerns were being heard at the Conference of the Parties.
“There are elements in this document for which our Caricom countries are grateful. The increased ambition of the Agreement, as reflected by the reference to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, is a significant achievement that has already started to resonate with ‘positive vibrations’ throughout the Caribbean,” he said. “The separate treatment of Loss and Damage in the Agreement is also a most welcomed development. While I pulled these two elements out for special mention, we view this Agreement not as a combination of separate articles, but as a total package that will provide us with the legal framework for protecting our ecosystems, our islands, our people, our cultures and our planet.”
For the director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Dr. Didacus Jules, the agreement also shows how a group of small islands can come together to demand change.
“The negotiation of this agreement marked a watershed for Caribbean collaboration. We have never worked so closely with such determined, common purpose and we have reaped the results,” said Dr. Didacus Jules.
The Caribbean brought the 1.5 message to Paris. With the assistance of the Regional Council of Martinique, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Interreg Program, financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the countries established the Wider Caribbean Pavilion at the COP21 Conference Venue. Not only was it a meeting point for Caribbean government officials, negotiators and journalists, it also was a massive showcase for the arts. Musicians performed their 1.5 songs to large crowds, drumming up support for the cause.
“Even on the road in Paris we heard people talking about it; the Caribbean Pavilion and the Reggae songs, the 1.5 to Stay Alive movement and we were just happy to be part of this massive push to get people to see that our Caribbean islands are in grave danger if we cannot get a meaningful cap on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jamaican reggae star Aaron Silk, who performed at the event.
The 1.5 to Stay Alive campaign involved negotiators, governments, journalists, artists and citizens across the Caribbean. For all those who championed the cause, the adoption of the Paris Agreement was a major milestone.
“I can return home to the citizens of my country and the Caribbean and reassure them that the world cares about them. I can tell the young people in our region who adopted ‘One Point Five to Stay Alive’ as their mantra that their future looks much brighter today than it did two weeks ago. I can say to the artists who have sung songs and written poetic verse on the need for urgent action on climate change that their voices have been heard,” said Dr. Fletcher.