TONY BEST: Bajan at Hart of climate talks
Immediately after the global climate change pact became a done deal in Paris, Unied Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon turned to his trusted top climate change adviser and asked: “what about 1.5.”?
Selwin Hart, the 45-year old Bajan who played a pivotal role in the behind-the scenes negotiations in Paris that culminated in the agreement which US President Barack Obama described as “huge” immediately recognised the significance of Ban Ki-moon’s question.
Limiting the growth of global warming to 1.5° Celsius was a passionate proposal placed on the climate change negotiating table by CARICOM six years ago to stem the damage caused by extreme weather conditions that ranged from hurricanes, floods and rising sea levels to droughts.
At times it seemed as if the idea would be laughed off the agenda. But as time passed, the 43 islands and low-lying coastal states in the Caribbean, Africa, the Pacific, Indian Ocean and South China Sea that belong to the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) had secured a binding international commitment to do exactly what the islands had been pressing for.
“One by one the countries expressed a willingness to commit themselves to the proposal,” said Hart, a former senior foreign affairs officer in the Barbados Mission to the UN.
But that wasn’t all for countries such as Barbados, St Lucia, Vanuatu, Jamaica, Tuvalu, Trinidad and Tobago and the Marshall Islands out of Paris.
They were given a firm commitment for access to the US$100 billion special funds pledged to finance the projects and programmes in the world’s poorer states.
“It was quite an achievement and the secretary general had accepted the merits of the case presented to him and to world leaders at conferences in bilateral sessions and on the margins of international meetings,” asserted Hart, a graduate of Harrison College, the University of the West Indies and Fordham University in New York. “The Caribbean countries are among the top winners of Paris.”
Naturally, much of the credit for the historic pact is being showered on Ban Ki-moon who in turn has thanked the Barbadian for the excellent advice before and during the summit.
“After the agreement was reached, the secretary general thanked me for the efforts of the team,” said Hart who for the past two years has been director of Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Change Support Team in New York and had easy daily access to the UN’s top executive.
In and out of New York, Paris and elsewhere, the Barbadian was seen at the SG’s side during talks with many of the world’s key leaders, including US President Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron, Germany’s Angel Merkel, France’s President Francois Hollande, and a long list of other heads of government from the developing world, among whom were Barbados’ Prime Minister, Freundel Stewart and his St. Lucian counterpart.
“I have seen up front the secretary-general’s passion and some of the difficulties he had in convincing leaders of some of the most powerful countries,” said the Bajan. “It has been a pleasure to see how the secretary-general used his office to get this ambitious global deal done. Without his advocacy and his timely interventions the agreement wouldn’t have been possible.”
As many UN observers see it, Hart’s contribution was immense. He brought his vast experience as the chief climate change negotiator for Barbados and the 43-member AOSIS group and as the climate change adviser in the office of the vice president of operations of the Caribbean Development Bank in Barbados.
“When I was being recruited from the CDB by the UN to work with the secretary-general and when I asked why me, I was told one of the reasons was that I knew the climate change subject very well; was trusted by all sides, and I was impartial,” he explained.
Indeed, Hart, whose parents Alvin and Norma Hart, live in Church Village in St Phillip where their son grew up has a reputation in and out of the UN as a well-liked, competent and skilled international expert who gets things done, said a UN official.
Tony Best is the NATION’s North American correspondent. Email [email protected]