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By Kenton X. Chance

James Fletcher, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development. (IWN photo)
James Fletcher, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development. (IWN photo)

WARSAW, Poland — St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, James Fletcher told the high level segment of the world climate summit on Wednesday that while hurricanes frequently leave a trail of death and destruction in the Caribbean, “it is painful and frightening” for residents of the region to face the reality that “the worst is yet to come”.

“It is even more depressing when we have to admit that this bleak future is the direct result of the sluggishness of the global response to climate change,” he said.

Fletcher noted that the talks, which began November 11, come on the heel of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, which 3,500 dead in the Philippines.

It is also taking place a year after negotiators expressed sympathy to the United States of America, Cuba and Haiti, who were still trying to come to terms with the immediate effects of Hurricane Sandy when the talks were held last year.

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“While no single weather event, no matter how severe, can be ascribed solely to climate change, it is clear that global warming resulting from human actions is serving as a trigger for the intensification of such events,” Fletcher said.

He said the summit is expected to take actions that will “meaningfully advance the process of realising a new global climate agreement by 2015.

“But have we really made any progress or have we, to use a Caribbean phrase, been merely ‘spinning top in mud?’”

Fletcher said that the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 19) and the 9th Session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9) can take “a little comfort in the fact that collectively we are beginning to propose concrete measures under Workstream 2 of the Durban Platform, with a view to increasing pre-2020 ambition.”

“Ambition” speaks to the extent to which countries are prepared to stick to their commitments as they relate to reducing carbon emissions by 2020.

“There is an even greater need to commit to the implementation of these measures,” he said, adding that the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), of which the Caribbean is a member, has presented “an innovative proposal that promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency as a vehicle to propel us forward.

“I want to encourage everyone to support this proposal,” he told the talks, hours after the G-77 and China, another negotiating bloc to which the Caribbean belongs, walks out of negotiations, frustrated by the non-agreement over who will take legal responsibility for the loss and damage caused by the changing climate. (See video below)

Fletcher said that with respect to Workstream 1, which addresses a new international agreement, “it is clear that our success in crafting an effective agreement will determine the quality of life that we and our children will either enjoy or endure on this planet.

“We all must work together to construct a robust agreement to save our planet.”

He said that developed country partners must “break the holding pattern that keeps them circling and skirting the twin issues of ambition and historical responsibility”.

Historical responsibility seeks to hold countries to account based on the extent of their carbon emissions in the past.

“All across the world, developing countries are embarking on mitigation programmes of one form or another. However, developing country Parties to this Convention will hardly be inspired by Annex 1 countries that are lukewarm in their own mitigation ambitions; that dodge their historical responsibility, even while they seek to impose binding obligations on developing countries; or even more perplexingly, Parties that seek to back-pedal on their existing emission reduction commitments,” Fletcher said.

He further said that adaptation actions are important, adding that Parties cannot make true progress on climate change if they do not meaningfully undertake adaptation as part of a balanced framework.

“We must ensure that the mechanisms, modalities and means, financial and otherwise, are in place to effect adaptation in an equitable manner.”

He also said that compensation for the loss and damage that results from climate change is an important issue for small island developing states (SIDS).

“Addressing loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts, is an issue of fundamental importance to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like mine, whose communities and economies are trying to cope with losses to which there is little or no capacity to respond.

“The time is fast approaching for many of us when the impacts of climate change will become so overwhelming that traditional adaptation activities will be insufficient to address loss and damage.

“For some, that time is already here. For all of these reasons, it is essential that we deliver, here in Warsaw, on the undertaking made at Doha, to arrive at a substantial outcome on loss and damage,” Fletcher said.

He also spoke of the importance of access to climate financing.

“Colleagues, no matter how diplomatic we may choose to be about it, the availability of finance is fundamental to realising our goal of successfully addressing climate change.

“It is not only the quantum of money that is important, but predictability and accessibility are equally crucial considerations. It is vital that all relevant financial facilities become fully operational, adequately capitalised and readily accessible by those Parties that need the resources,” Fletcher told the high level segment.

“Many SIDS are carrying the twin burdens of high debt and low growth, and in these asphyxiating circumstances, we need quick and easy access to climate financing.”

He said that St. Lucia has been fortunate to receive assistance from several friendly governments and development partners over the years.

“However, there is so much more that we need to do in the area of adaptation, such as upgrade our water supply, improve our food security, strengthen our coastal defences, storm-proof our infrastructure, and retool our health sector,” he said.

“Mr. President, Excellencies, let us make Warsaw, a city that is synonymous with the resilience and heroic efforts of the Polish people in the aftermath of World War II, the place where we strengthened our own resolve and determination to win the war against anthropogenic climate change.

“The Mermaid, which is the symbol of this historic city, can either portend calamitous events such as storms, floods or shipwrecks, or it can be associated with treasures, goodness and friendship.

“In much the same way, how we leave Warsaw is entirely up to us. We can continue to vacillate and procrastinate while SIDS remain on a perilous path of stronger storms, prolonged droughts and devastated ecosystems or we can take concrete actions and make meaningful commitments that will lead to a brighter, promising and more sustainable future. The correct choice should be clear to all of us,” Fletcher said.