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TONY BEST: Preparing for climate change


TONY BEST

TONY BEST: Preparing for climate change

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NEW YORK WAS the scene of an elaborate global meeting recently. It was described by the United Nations as a “legal formality,” a requirement by the world body to implement the historic Climate Change Agreement.

Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who led his country’s delegation in Paris last December when the pact was negotiated, joined more than 60 heads of state and government presidents, prime ministers and, in a few cases, royalty – to sign the pact at UN headquarters in Manhattan.

Stuart, who was accompanied by Dr Denis Lowe, Minister of the Environment, and Sonja Welch, the Prime Minister’s Permanent Secretary, and two other officials, reflected on the role Barbados played in helping the international community conclude the pact that can have a far-reaching and positive impact on small states, Barbados among them.

“I had the honour of chairing the Caribbean Community in the latter half of 2015, and being actively involved in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, at a time that witnessed this historic milestone in global environmental governance,” said Stuart after the signing ceremony.

The carefully choreographed event was presided over by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and French President Francois Hollande. More than a third of the signatories were small states, a point which didn’t escape Stuart’s attention.

In an interview after he had a private meeting with Ban Ki-Moon, the Prime Minister told the SUNDAY SUN: “It was not without significance that a majority of the countries that had ratified the agreement” were SIDS, “countries that did not cause the climate change problems.”

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new Prime Minister who signed the accord for his country, told the representatives from around the world that small states shouldn’t be punished for a problem they didn’t cause.

“We welcome the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement at the UN,” said Stuart.

He explained that when the agreement was fully implemented, it would ease the financial burden imposed on poorer countries as they grapple with the fallout from greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere mainly by the rich lands.

“A lot of the money we spend on mitigating the effects of climate change on the issue of adapting to climate change, the issue of loss and damage resulting from natural disasters we would be able to divert those expenditures to the areas that really need addressing, such as low-income housing and the infrastructure,” Stuart pointed out. 

“There will now be climate funds available that in appropriate circumstances we will be able to accept. I had to make the point to the Secretary-General that it is pointless having these funds available if we have to tread our way through a tortuous labyrinth when something happens in order to access them,” he pointed out.

In short, the international community shouldn’t limit SIDS’ access to assistance by erecting a mountain of red tape.

“We need the procedures simplified and the criteria made more friendly so that when our countries are impacted by climate events we don’t have to take inordinately long periods of time to access funds or we don’t have to go and use our hard-earned revenues” to deal with challenges for which the climate funds were set aside, added Stuart.

Dean Barrow, Belize’s Prime Minister, who succeeded Stuart as the rotating chairman of Caricom, agreed. He hailed the decision to create the Green Climate Fund and called for an “effective implementation model” that would make assistance readily available to victims of climate change.

“For Caricom SIDS, grant-funding is critical,” said Barrow. “Its importance is underscored by the fact that many of our member-states have been graduated out of access to concessionary development resources.”

High on that list are Barbados and The Bahamas.

“In keeping with Barbados’ stance in the run-up to the COP 21 (Conference of Parties,) Stuart provided high quality leadership and delivered a statement that was well received, especially by fellow Caricom leaders,” said Tony Marshall, Barbados’ UN Ambassador.   

Tony Best is THE NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]

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