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Hard road ahead for island states intent on robust climate deal

Published:Thursday | January 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

At least one Jamaican negotiator has concluded that while "all is not lost", small island developing states (SIDS) have their work cut out for them, if a meaningful international climate deal is to be brokered in Paris next December.

This is following the recent climate-change talks in Peru, which produced an outcome document, dubbed 'the Lima Call for Action', that some regard as significantly lacking in teeth.

"We have a lot of work to do before Paris in order to ensure that we have a meaningful, legally binding instrument," Jeffrey Spooner, one of the island's senior negotiators and head of the Meteorological Service, told The Gleaner.

Among other things, the decision document articulates no tangible commitments from developed countries to reduce greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.

Nor does it advance the discussions around predictable financing for developing countries, including SIDS, that are affected by extreme weather events or that require significant adaptation strategies to cope with other climate impacts, including sea level rise.

Still, Spooner - also the alternate representative for the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean on the Adaptation Fund Board - said there is reason to hope.

"It (the decision document) is not exactly what we were hoping for, but at least it gives us the opportunity to continue the work for a meaningful outcome in Paris next year," he said.


Strong will


"It is really a compromise so that all was not lost; it lays the foundation for continued work as we move forward. As a negotiator, I strongly believe that it is possible ... I think there will be the political will to ensure it is done," Spooner added.

He insists that the science of climate change - which predicts, among other things, populations devastated by food insecurity and compromised water resources due to droughts - helps to make the case.

"With the science pointing in one direction, I really cannot see how any right-thinking body would not want to agree," Spooner said.

At the same time, he said developing countries and particularly SIDS, such as Jamaica, would stay the course in their efforts to safeguard their climate future.

"What we need to ensure is that the document coming out of Paris really reflects what we need. So there ought to be some agreement in Paris and how we contribute to that is we need to continue to participate fully in all the negotiations leading up to Paris," he said.

"AOSIS (the Alliance of Small Island States), in particular, has been really calling for what the science is saying needs to be done and we will continue to do so. We are the most affected and we contribute the least to the increase in global temperatures. We are the ones most vulnerable, but least able to respond, especially because of our economic situation," Spooner added.

"[Yet] the Convention (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has committed developed countries to take the actions needed and holds them to their commitment," he said further.