What's The Caribbean Response to the Legacy of COP 26 in Glasgow
In presenting the outcome document from COP26, Alok Sharma, President of the Conference pronounced"We kept 1.5 degrees alive but its pulse is weak. This is the moment of Truth for the planet". John Kerry softened the embarrassing disappointment by saying "Glasgow was not the finishing line and was never going to be. Nations will still have much more to do on their emissions cutting goals to ensure the 1.5 limit" The truth for the Planet is that the majority of the 20 largest countries contribute to 80 percent of the global emissions . Consequently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that if all the current long term commitments were fully followed through the world would limit heating to 1.8 degrees in the long term. However the gap between the long term ambitions and countries' crucial short term targets for 2030 would result in heating of 2.4C.
This is far removed from the six key demands put forward by Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Climate Justice advocates. As Hon. Gaston Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of both SIDS and the CARICOM Community puts it: these six key demands for World Leaders that, if met, should ensure our nations are not entirely submerged by rising sea levels. They include:
As Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley so emphatically and persausively pronounced at the opening plenary : ‘1.5°C is what we need to survive, 2°C is a death sentence... We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we've come here to say, try harder.’
In the final analysis, not one of these key demands by SIDS was met in its entirety. While pondering the discussions on the mixed results of Glasgow, few may recall that "1.5 degrees to stay alive" was the clarion call of the Caribbean at COP15 in Copenhagen, 2009 based on research by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. More immediate however, are the implications for the Caribbean of two interrelated concerns: (a) Is CARICOM paying heed to the results of related research from our Universities and Scientists? Are our Universities maximizing the benefits of a collaborative approach to public education and dissemination of their research findings?
A Vibrant Ecosystem of Research: Keeping Hope Alive in the Caribbean
COP26 left no doubt that the world is in a race towards renewable energy sources. Even before Glasgow, this was fully recognized in the seminal work, The State of the Caribbean Climate by The Climate Studies Group at UWI Mona, UWI, led by Professor Michael Taylor in collaboration with The Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology led by Dr. Cedric J Van Meerbeck and funded by CDB, April 2020. ( See link) It is important to note a companion Report by the Organization Eastern Caribbean States Climate Trends and Projections for the OECS Region which presents the OECS Climate Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (April 2020).
Like the UWI study, it advocates for adaptation of climate services involving preparation and delivery of climate information to meet users' needs with partnerships among providers, researchers and users of climate services.
The UWI study however is more expansive in advancing policy options, which can in turn play a key role in facilitating the Caribbean's transition to a resilient future. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires far-reaching transformations across power generation, buildings, industry, transport, land use, coastal zone management, and agriculture, as well as the immediate scale-up of technological carbon removal and climate finance. Accordingly, it promotes decarbonizing by focusing on Power. It presents the case that wind and solar power generation technologies which are already available at scale, would be the quickest sector to decarbonize. The demand for power would double as other sectors switch to electricity and green hydrogen, requiring renewables production and storage capacity to be rapidly scaled up. Similarly for transportation, the trend to carbon neutrality in the next decade is based on adoption of electrical vehicles and for agriculture, using more efficient sources of energy. The policy guidance from these two studies but particular UWI's, revolves around three pillars of functional' cooperation:
The directives from these studies identify underlying conditions that enable adequate responses to climate change. They include supportive policies, innovations, strong institutions, leadership, and shifts in social norms. It is interesting to note that The Watchdog Climate Action Tracker (CAT) states that global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will still be roughly twice as high as what's necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees — a threshold scientists have said the planet should stay under to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. The net-zero goals of 40 countries account for 85% of global emissions cuts, but the group found only 6% of those emissions were backed up by concrete plans. At this rate Finance for climate action, one of the major demands from SIDS, for example, must increase nearly 13-fold to meet the estimated need in 2030.
Glimmers of Hope through Coalitions of the Willing
There are however glimmers of hope that even the watered down commitments from Glasgow will reshape the Global Agenda as coalitions of the willing continue to work on critical solutions. It is apparent that the net-zero imperative is no longer in question. Among the limited successes for SIDS to be built on are that more than 130 countries that represent more than 85% of the planet's forests pledged last week to end and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, and more than 25 countries have so far signed on to an agreement to stop financing fossil fuel projects abroad but no mention of doing so at home.
Many of the net-zero commitments made in Glasgow came from coalitions of the stakeholders—governments, financial institutions, companies, multilateral organizations, civil society, youth and others. This is a major shift in gears among coalitions since Paris, who must participate if systemic problems are going to be solved. How can Caribbean Countries tap into these sources and/or create necessary coalitions in the region and globally are to be found in a very useful analysis of McKinsey Sustainability Report (November 12, 2021) that published a summary of five key priorities coming out of Glasgow:
Conclusions: Reimagining Climate Resilience - Building on the work of Caribbean Scientists
The big questions of financing adaptation and mitigation remain critical for SIDS and CARICOM. To what extent is the Caribbean Agenda totally dependent on external sources? Are carbon credits and carbon taxes (raised in a previous blog) viable options for reducing dependence of SIDS/CARICOM? What's to be done? .
GOFAD has previously advocated for a greater level of cooperation among Caribbean Universities to advance the Region's achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Capability for intellectual leadership in these endeavours is clearly illustrated in several ways. These include the UWI Climate Studies Group referred in this blog; the Green Environment Workshop of the University of Guyana Green Institute; the UWI Resilience Network established to contribute to the sustainable and resilient development of the Caribbean; the Centennial Legacy of Agriculture at UWI St Augustine to mark 100 years of the establishment of the Imperial College Tropical Agriculture August 30, 1921, which became known as the University College of the West Indies St Augustine in 1960, the University of Guyana (Berbice) Campus Microbiology Training Workshop; and the Human Heredity Environment and Health in the Caribbean (H3EC) Initiative involved in genomics research. In addition, Vidia S Roopchand, a UG graduate lead researcher for the Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccine is an outstanding example. More than ever GOFAD reaffirms its "Random thoughts on Universities in the post COVID 19 era: Time for a regional conversation" (GOFAD Blog 4/29/21)
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.