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Caribbean Countries Require More Representation on Global Climate Resilience Initiatives

The Caribbean faces significant climate challenges, yet its experiences are underrepresented in global resilience initiatives.

Climate change has taken an unfathomable toll on the Caribbean. Through discussions on how climate events have impacted communities regionally, there’s a realisation that such experiences aren’t properly represented in the global climate resilience initiatives. According to the United Nations, the Caribbean Region is considered to be “ground zero” for the global climate emergency. As the Caribbean continues to be affected by the effects of climate change, several possibilities for adaptation and mitigation are presented.

The Caribbean faces significant climate challenges, yet its experiences are underrepresented in global resilience initiatives.

The Caribbean played a significant role in the “1.5 to Stay Alive” campaign in the context of global climate change efforts. This campaign was an advocacy initiative aimed at addressing the urgent need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. The campaign sought to influence international climate agreements and policies, particularly the Paris Agreement, to reflect the scientific consensus that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is critical for the survival and well-being of vulnerable countries and communities. The Caribbean region also played an important role in the discussions around Loss and Damage at the Conference of the Parties (COP) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Loss and Damage is a critical issue for the Caribbean due to its vulnerability to climate change impacts, including hurricanes, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events.

However, there are critics who say that these policies and agreements have yet to have real-time effects on the victims of climate change. Renée Dass is a volunteer youth intern at Create Future Good. He has an interest in economics and environmental science. Dass says that the Caribbean’s susceptibility remains underrepresented on global platforms. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a regional group of nations that encourages common policy and economic goals. CARICOM also leads climate resilience initiatives through regional integration, cooperation, and representation at the international level.

Despite a grouping of twenty countries (fifteen Member States and five Associate Members) with similar goals, the holistic approach towards climate vulnerabilities remains in question, according to Dass. Dass said, “CARICOM usually stands together collectively in international conferences to provide greater influence; however, even within CARICOM, there are discrepancies in representation. Countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados are most represented, but what about those more vulnerable, like Haiti, who have been suffering the consequences of extreme desertification?”

According to Dass, many of these issues are based on the unavailability and inaccessibility of financial resources. She explained that there’s less potential for change when economics determines the level of representation of each country rather than the urgency of the situation. This has great implications, even for regional groups that are expected to represent the Caribbean on global forums. On a regional level, concerns about global representation persist. Each country experiences the effects of climate change differently, with different accumulations of resources and methods to assist with adaptation and mitigation. Considering this, if all countries aren’t factored in the dialogue, this can lead to reduced opportunities for international involvement.

The Caribbean faces significant climate challenges, yet its experiences are underrepresented in global resilience initiatives.

What is increasingly evident from these events is the significant role of interconnected socio-economic and political obstacles, often intertwined with global expectations. The pursuit of a more extensive and lucrative economy has, in some cases, led businesses and authorities to exacerbate climate risks in the Caribbean. The insufficient funding provided by international and regional institutions for resource allocation and climate disaster mitigation strategies exacerbates the situation. As international discussions and agreements unfold, it becomes imperative to give due consideration to these factors.

International climate events and agreements can provide opportunities for representation of the climate crisis in the Caribbean. The Paris Agreement, for example, is a legally binding international treaty on climate change aimed at economic and social transformation globally. It’s geared towards long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies that are supported by providing financial assistance to vulnerable countries, such as those in the Caribbean. Despite this, there is insufficient inclusion of the regional impact of financial, adaptive, and capacity-building measures.

The Caribbean faces significant climate challenges, yet its experiences are underrepresented in global resilience initiatives.

Enhanced representation of the Caribbean on the path of climate justice will assist in addressing the socio-economic challenges that contribute to climate disasters. This means that there will be further changes to the international financial structure via investment in clean energy systems and mitigation and adaptive strategies through the International Monetary Fund.

In a report from the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, shared that there must be collective agreement on the best means to address these challenges in poor and emerging countries in the region. Her remarks echo what many throughout the Caribbean believe are viable solutions to changing the current systems in place.

Utilising opportunities to represent the Caribbean in global discussions on climate change and resilience is crucial. To do so, groups must thoroughly consider what inhibits such efforts and what is required to change the systems in place. One strategy is to focus on funding allocations for Caribbean countries.

Dass shared, “International organisations could facilitate the increased representation by funding Caribbean countries, especially those with lesser developed economies and those at higher risk. This funding would grant these countries with an increased economic power for lobbying and delegation to increase the influence these countries have.” She emphasised that the need for climate financing is indeed a key focus in the Caribbean, as there are changes taking place that require the necessary actions to mitigate and adapt.

Through financing, this can also increase travel opportunities for Caribbean representatives to attend in-person climate events and discussions. Annika Kamilla Bellot, Environmental Law Consultant and Legal Officer in Dominica, shared that travel financing can be a significant barrier to delegates attending these conferences. She added that, given the cost associated with travel for delegates, providing scholarships to Caribbean countries ensures that there is an equal opportunity to attend these conferences.

Another strategy shared by Bellot is the provision of capacity-building events that provide opportunities for participation in the Caribbean. She added, “Workshops and fellowships such as the Alliance of Small Island Statesfellowship are important in developing the next generation of climate diplomats. Without these opportunities, participants from the Caribbean SIDS may lack knowledge of policy development, climate science, and negotiation in these processes. Therefore, focusing on this area ensures that not only do participants have the knowledge, but they are equipped/ well placed to provide crucial representation.”

There remains an urgency for Caribbean countries to be on the front lines of global climate discussions. Lauren Ritchie, founder of the Eco Justice Project, has recognised this urgency and the call for international collaboration. She said, “It’s essential for us as countries on the front lines of the climate crisis to have the opportunity to share our story on our terms to highlight the challenges we face and the solutions we can offer. Climate change is an issue that requires international collaboration, and we won’t see progress until those most impacted by climate change can make meaningful contributions towards our collective future.”
There are many ways to further include Caribbean countries on global platforms. Considering the socio-economic and political factors is a first step. This can be followed by taking into consideration the many inhibitors to such opportunities. Inclusion of the Caribbean can only further achieve the goals of global climate resilience.

This story was published by News 5 Belize with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.


Picture of Princess Charles

Princess Charles

Princess is a Trinidadian writer and blogger with articles in the fields of human rights, labour laws, and occupational safety and health. She is an advocate for labour rights, mental health, disability rights, and climate justice. With a degree in Occupational Safety and Health, she centres her work on providing safer spaces and risk-reduction strategies for communities and the environment.

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