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Earth Today | ‘Participate’

Former CCD boss urges participation of SIDS leaders at UN Climate Talks

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2022 | 12:46 AM
Demonstrators participate in a Kick Big Polluters Out protest at the COP27 UN Climate Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 10.
Demonstrators participate in a Kick Big Polluters Out protest at the COP27 UN Climate Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 10.

AS THE dust settles following the cut and thrust of negotiations at the most recent United Nations Climate Summit (COP27), one stakeholder has urged the stepped-up participation of political leaders from Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS) at the annual talks.

“One of the things I think for us as developing countries in the climate space is about the politics. We have to place more value on being present, on our leaders being present. The fight cannot be left only to the technicians at the table. We have to place a value on this space and on being present at all levels,” noted UnaMay Gordon, former head of Jamaica’s Climate Change Division (CCD) and who was present at COP27 in Egypt last month in support of SIDS.

“When the technicians sit and slug it out in the first week, we need ministers to sit across the table in the second week, to be present; and who we can turn this over to. The technicians need the political support to carry the fight to the end; and sometimes it is just not there,” she added.

Among the critical issues negotiated at the COP are financing, mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, and loss and damage, all associated with climate change to which Caribbean SIDS are especially vulnerable given their small size, geographical location and struggling economies.

The COP, short for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to which there are 198 signatories, is the supreme decision-making body of the convention which is intended to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. Each year, parties meet to review the progress of those efforts while brokering new or additional arrangements toward that goal.

The Caribbean SIDS leaders present at COP27 included the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and The Bahamas Gaston Browne, Mia Mottley and Philip Davis; and the President of Suriname Chandrikapersad Santokhi.

“Every COP builds on the other and you never know what kind of win you will get in the latest. Climate change cannot now be just a fight of the technical team. We have to claim the space,” Gordon insisted.

To help to make the case, she said that at the recent COP, there was a leaders’ summit, together with a number of roundtables to which only the leaders were invited.

“The invitations were not transferable. Also, when leaders sit around a table and discuss then it makes a difference because some deals can be brokered right there,” the former CCD boss said.

“I think that taking stock of the mechanism that exists now is important. While people knock the process, it is the only process we have for collective action on an issue of global concern – climate change. It is for us to work together to work out the dysfunctionalities in the system,” Gordon added.

This includes, she said, guarding against the commercialisation of the COPs, which, year on year, attract the participation of thousands of people, including scientists, climate justice activists, government representatives and civil society groups.

“We have to go into course correction to make sure that this does not become a commercial activity where people, like our civil society stakeholders, cannot afford to participate because accommodation [for example] is out of their reach,” she warned.