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1.5 degrees Celsius remains in play at Paris climate talks

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

After a week of deliberations at the United Nations climate talks in Paris, 1.5 degrees Celsius as a possible target for holding the increase in global temperatures - crucial for islands like Jamaica and others of the Caribbean - remains in play.

"Parties hereby establish the global goal of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change, [in accordance with the objective, principles and provisions of the Convention, including common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,] with a view to [contributing to sustainable development] [and] [ensuring adaptation in the context of the goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature [below 2 degC][below [2 or] 1.5 degC] referred to in Article 2]," reads a section of the draft text on outcomes from the deliberations.

However, as evidenced by the brackets, nothing is settled as country heads and ministers come in this week to take over the negotiations from their technical experts.

Still, Caribbean islands, as others forming the Alliance of Small Island States, would have been pleased with the retention of the 1.5 target as an option - one that will necessitate significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if it is to be realised.

Only two weeks ago, head of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change Dr James Fletcher reinforced how critical the target is.

"The conversation has been about 28 Celsius, and we have said that two degrees cannot work for us.

"With 28 Celsius, we will have major ecosystem collapse in many of our countries," said Fletcher, who is also St Lucia's minister of sustainable development, energy, science, and technology.

"You will have extinction of some of the biodiversity that is so rich - both marine and terrestrial biodiversity - that makes us who we are. Two degrees Celsius will unleash major diseases on us, will cause our coastal defences to be majorly challenged," he added.

He was speaking on November 26 at the announcement of the winner of that island's 'Media Climate Change Challenge', which was won by journalist Alison Kentish of Helen Television System.


Challenges negotiations


Meanwhile, the past week of negotiations has not been without challenges.

"OPEC countries Saudi Arabia and Venezuela stood out for their extensive efforts to derail the process in the first week, including blocking the vital symbol of human rights and ambition in the agreement, the 1.5 degree goal, as well as throwing up roadblocks around the definition of terms such as decarbonisation, carbon neutrality, and zero carbon," read a release from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a United Kingdom-based non-profit, which has been following the progress of the talks.

"Also, despite a week of big announcements on renewables from Bill Gates, India's Solar Alliance, Google, and more, Saudi Arabia have also questioned 100 per cent renewables as being a 'slogan' rather than as means to achieving the objectives of the conference," it added.

Alongside the negotiations has been the ongoing "1.5 To Stay Alive" campaign launched in October in the Caribbean. It is the collaborative efforts of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Panos Caribbean, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the Regional Council of Martinique.

The goal of the campaign is to bolster the Caribbean negotiating positions, including its effort towards securing the 1.58 Celsius target, given current climate impacts being experienced in the region.

These include sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and warmer days and nights.

The campaign, which has been gaining momentum, has so far seen 'the launch of its Facebook page (www.1point5. info) and Twitter account (@1point5OK)