A burning international issue today climate change, engages the attention of both developing and developed nations in particular, Caribbean nations. under the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), consistent talks have produced firm resolutions to collectively tackling this universal environmental threat. Being signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the DOHA Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, and the recently concluded Paris Agreement for Climate Change implemented to ensure mitigation of adverse effects of climate change, Caribbean nations are moving toward public sensitisation on the environment and sustainability.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened in Paris 2015 recognised that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries.” Climate change cannot be defined as merely a unidimensional issue but a global, complex and multi-level problématique demanding a well-coordinated universal and collective response. Affecting billions of lives and livelihoods, climate change persists in posing dangers of untold magnitude as weather pattern variability, natural disasters, natural resource extraction and altered atmospheric composition degrade the very quality of life.
Caribbean nations strongly concurred that “cooperation activities carried out within the OAS to enable the most vulnerable states and populations to become more resilient to climate change, help states in their efforts to adapt to climate change and mitigate natural disasters” (OAS 2008). Indeed, having discerned the urgency for novel, sustainable approaches through the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Caribbean countries advocate the OAS climate change agenda for adaptation and mitigation for its people, ecology, and economy. For hundreds of years, the indigenous and migrant populations subsisted on farming, fisheries and mining which largely remain unchanged. 50 – 80% of its terrain is forested, while most of their inhabitants reside and work along the low-lying coastal plains or dense cosmopolitan zones. Well-endowed with abundant natural resources (oil, natural gas, gold, bauxite, luxuriant forest covers, fisheries, rice and sugar cane plantations), tropical countries rely heavily on these primary exports. Its marine torrid and equatorial climates in tandem with current weather volatility and severity mandate a resilience-enhancing strategy to buffer it against climate shocks. Since 1994, these countries approved the earliest version of climate change policy through the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and consequently, in 2002, via its Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Implementation Strategy for Coastal and Low-lying Areas. After weathering several natural disasters which ravaged up to 59% of its Gross National Product (GNP) and a succession of rising sea levels and temperature hikes, the governments accelerated and deployed collaborative efforts in the Climate Change Action Plans); Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD +); National Biodiversity Action Plans and Low Carbon Development strategies; and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015).
Caribbean countries firmly support OAS’s resolution to “pursue and step up efforts being made from within the OAS to counter the adverse effects of climate change, and to increase the resilience and the capacity of vulnerable states and populations to adapt to the phenomenon of climate change” with emphasis on the OAS Natural Disaster Reduction and Response Mechanisms (OAS 2008). Although existing vacuums impede fulfilment of its climate change targets, it still holds bright prospects. The limitations restricting capacity to realise its climate change objectives consist of financial, educational, technical and technological deficiencies. These barriers require infusions of ODA development funding so that technological and knowledge transfers would strengthen national policy tools for the Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD) programme under UNFCCC. In counterpoint, significant measures of progress are evident. Caribbean nations have participated in several climate change regional initiatives such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre under CARICOM (2005), UNASUR’s Summit hosted in the Georgetown, Caribbean nations with its resolutions stated in the Georgetown Declaration (2010); the Fourth Summit of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC 2016) where it affirmed commitments to sustainable development and implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.