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Torrential rains from trough systems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2016 resulted in landslides like this one, which swept one structure away and threatened nearby houses. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS
Torrential rains from trough systems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2016 resulted in landslides like this one, which swept one structure away and threatened nearby houses. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS
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by Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, (IPS) — Caribbean leaders worry that with climate change sceptic Donald Trump in the White House, it will be more difficult for small island developing states facing the brunt of climate change to secure the financing necessary to adapt to and mitigate against it.

Mere days after Trump’s inauguration, the White House ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to delete a page about climate change from its website. It has also signalled its intention to slash the budget of the NOAA, the U.S.’s leading climate science agency, by 17 per cent.

If Trump follows through on his campaign promise to roll back his predecessor, Barack Obama’s, green legacy, it seems inevitable that Caribbean and other small island developing states will feel the effects. Trump had also explicitly vowed to stop all US payments to UN climate change programmes.

In this archipelagic nation, the Ralph Gonsalves administration spent some 3.7 million dollars in November 2016 — about 1 per cent of that year’s budget — cleaning up after a series of trough systems.

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The sum did not take into account the monies needed to respond to the damage to public infrastructure and private homes, as well as losses in agriculture resulting from the severe weather, which the government has blamed on climate change.

“The United States is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases and, for us, the science is clear and we accept the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change,” Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves told IPS.

He said his nation’s commitment is reflected not only in the fact that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was one of the early signatories to the Paris Agreement at the end of COP 21, but was also one of the early ratifiers of the agreement.

The Paris Agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. During the election campaign, Trump vowed that he would pull the U.S. out of the deal if elected, although there appears to be some dissent within the administration on the issue.

It was reported this week that Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which oversaw the Paris deal, is visiting the US and had requested a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.

So far, Espinosa says she has been snubbed, and a state department official told the Guardian there were no scheduled meetings to announce.

The official added: “As with many policies, this administration is conducting a broad review of international climate issues.”

Small island developing states have adopted the mantra “1.5 to stay alive”, saying that ideally global climate change should be contained to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels if their islands are to survive.

Gonsalves is hopeful that Trump would modify the policies outlined during the election campaign.

“I have listened to President Trump after the election and he had said that he is keeping an open mind on the question of man-made climate change,” he told IPS.

Gonsalves noted, however, the developments regarding the removal of climate change references from the White House website, adding, “But I would actually wait to see what would actually happen beyond what takes place on the website.”

The prime minister noted to IPS that the United States is an extremely powerful country, but suggested that even if Washington follows through on Trump’s campaign pledges, all is not lost.

“The United States of American has a population of 330 million people. Currently, in the world, there are seven and a half billion people … There is a lot of the world out there other than 330 million [people] and the world is not just one country — though a hugely important country.”

But Kingstown is not just waiting to see where Trump goes with his policy on climate change.

Come May 1, consumers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will begin paying a 1 per cent “Disaster Levy” on consumption within the country. The monies generated will be used to capitalise the Contingences Fund, which will be set up to help offset the cost of responding to natural disasters.

In presenting his case to lawmakers, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said that there have been frequent severe natural disasters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly since 2010, resulting in extensive loss and damage to houses, physical infrastructure and economic enterprises.

“The central government has incurred significant costs in providing relief and assistance to affected households and businesses and for rehabilitation and replacement of damaged infrastructure. Indeed, we have calculated that no less than 10 per cent of the public debt has been incurred for disaster-related projects and initiatives, narrowly-defined,” he told Parliament during his Budget Address in February.

As part of the Paris Agreement, developed countries said they intend to continue their existing collective goal to mobilise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 and extend this until 2025. A new and higher goal will be set for after this period.

Gonsalves said it was not anticipated that the Paris Agreement would have been signed and ratified by November 2016. “But it was done. The anticipation was that it was going to take several years longer, so they put the commitments from 2020.

“Now, what are we going to do between 2017 and 2020?” he told IPS, adding that one practical response is to push for the pledges to come forward.

As Caribbean nations do what they can, locally, to respond to the impact of climate change, they are hoping that global funding initiatives for adaptation and mitigation do not take on the usual sluggish disbursement practices of other global initiatives.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community at their 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting in Guyana in mid-February that it was critical the Green Climate Fund be more readily accessible for countries trying to recover from the aftermaths of climate-driven natural disasters.

4 replies on “Caribbean awaits Trump moves on climate funding, Paris deal”

  1. I do not know if Donald Trump is a Climate Change skeptic, but he is a “Global Warming” skeptic. Global Warming has been proven to be a big hoax, especially “Man-made” Global Warming. It is an undeniable fact that the Earth is going through a cooling phase right now and the warming phase ended over a decade ago. Real scientists (as opposed to Obama and Al Gore’s fake scientists) fear that the world will enter another mini Ice Age. This past Winter in the Northern Hemisphere has been recorded as the coldest in over 100 years. For two years in a row it has produced snow in the Sahara Desert, and snow on the Pyramids of Egypt.
    The Carbon Nazis predicted that by the year 2013, (four years ago) that there would be no more snow and ice and that 8 major cities would be under water. Did that happen?
    Yes, there is Climate Change and has been for thousands of years, but not man-made Global Warming.

    I am very much against Pollution and may not be in favor of Trump’s easing of environmental restrictions but I am more against being fooled by greedy corrupt politicians and Globalists creating a Global Warming hoax to get more power and control over us while they loot us for more money in taxes and other scams.

    Bill Gates suggests construction of a hose many miles long that spews chemicals into the air that reflect the sunlight. Chemicals…Toxic Chemicals! …What a great idea!!!

  2. So the 1% tax is for climate change but Ralph didn’t say where the money will be spent to help avoid these disasters that take place every year. Is he going to tax people every year after a disaster? Why doesn’t he investigate ways to stop the disaster from affecting the people? He should also show how much money will be collected and where it was spent. He’s blaming Trump for his tax increase without a plan of the disbursement of the funds. This is typical Ralph: He knows everything and it’s his way or the highway.
    The planning department should do their job and ensure houses are not built without proper drainage to funnel rain water to the rivers. They should also make sure houses are built on proper soil to avoid what happened in Clare Valley. Allowing people to build houses anywhere and then tax others to rebuild houses destroyed by disaster is a rip-off.
    Kenton has a video of his visit to Soufriere and it shows what’s happening in the mountains. The agricultural ministry should investigate these areas and provide leadership to protect the slippage of soil which is probably responsible for many of the landslides.
    This new tax is for the next election when he will buy lumber, galvanize and cement claiming it’s for the disaster. The entire island is a disaster zone created by no other person but Ralph.

    1. Be careful! You are thinking, and that is considered very dangerous in SVG. They do not appreciate observant people that can analyze facts. It looks like you were not “airport bitten” and turned into a shoeless ULP zombie to worship our zombie king and approve of everything he says and does.

    2. Ralph is an intelligent man but has NO intelligence in economics. He believes the country is to be built and maintained by government through heavy taxation. He has absolutely NO IDEA how to utilize the system whereby the private sector and the government work as a team and accomplish much more. Because of Ralph we will always be underdeveloped, poor, inefficient, and going into decay soon after anything gets developed. We are one of the most resource-rich countries in the Caribbean but in Ralph we lack the competence to make it work for us. With Ralph we will one day be like Haiti or Venezuela, and the supporters will wonder after all that spending, borrowing and taxation and free stuff how it possibly could have happened.

      Sad, very sad indeed!

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