As the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 approaches — it is being held in Dubai from November 30-December 12 — the Caribbean continues to struggle with a range of intensifying climate change impacts. According to the recent Global Stocktake report, the world is currently not headed in the right direction, and there are urgent measures that must be taken to correct this.
Jamaica-based blogger and Global Voices contributor Petchary believes that “purposeful and laser-focused leadership is needed, in the Caribbean as well as elsewhere in the world:
That leadership needs to drag us back to the straight path, as we seem to be wandering off in different directions. I also feel we are not listening to each other. By ‘we’ I mean all those nations, rich and poor, who will be sitting down from November 30 to December 12, trying to agree.
In that vein, an Open Letter to Latin American and Caribbean political leaders, signed by a diverse group of non-governmental organisations, CEOs, former UN officials, and activists, was posted on the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) website. Acknowledging that the people of the region regularly deal with the fallout of the climate crisis via everything from tropical cyclones to food insecurity, the letter also noted that Latin American and the Caribbean offer “some of the most relevant solutions to the current climate crisis, thanks to its natural ecosystems like the Amazon, the Atlantic forest, […] the wetlands or the extended coasts with rich biodiversity, explaining: “Many of these assets place us in a prime position to lead on the clean energy transition, as well as on the conservation of our biodiversity.”
The letter went on to outline three critical issues for the attention of the region's political leadership. These “transformations,” as the signatories term them, will respond to global challenges with “innovative local solutions,” and help to address some of the broader issues the region grapples with, which are exacerbated by climate change, including “inequality, poverty, and staggering levels of debt.”
The ambitiously hoped-for outcome of COP28 is that tangible ways in which to rapidly accelerate global climate action will be implemented, to keep global heating within the 1.5° Celsius limit as per the Paris Agreement, and to enhance international cooperation on climate change.
Transforming energy systems
The goal here is achieving at least triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 with the aim of full decarbonisation by 2050. However, this requires an international commitment to clean energy sources, while phasing out fossil fuels — including the halting of all new oil and gas exploration — in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 43 percent by 2030, and 60 percent by 2035 below 2019 levels.
Whether certain Caribbean territories in particular — the energy-reliant economy of Trinidad and Tobago, and the newly discovered oil and natural gas-rich Guyana — will adhere to this, remains to be seen, as the letter believes such transformation also hinges on “the phase out of public financing for fossil fuels, including subsidies.” Part of the goal is also to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel by 75 percent by 2030, and increase efforts to reduce 30 percent methane emissions by waste. The letter also suggests accelerating fossil-fuel free transport, which is a heavy-emitting sector, by “enhancing energy efficiency […] and making clean technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in all regions by 2030.”
Transforming food systems and our relationship to nature
The aim here is to ensure food security, build resilience and reduce emissions while enhancing yields. This will require a reduction in food loss waste, and an increase in healthier, plant based diets. By 2030, the idea is to foster climate resilient, sustainable agriculture that increases yields by 17 precent — without expansion of the agricultural frontier into natural ecosystems — and reduces current GHG emissions from agriculture by 25 percent from 2020 levels.
Both land and coastal conservation form part of this approach, as well as the securing of Indigenous land rights, the expansion of sustainable land-use practices, and the revitalisation of degraded ecosystems. The expected results of such measures include more robust and sustainable livelihoods, increased biodiversity, and the sequestering of carbon.
Transforming financial systems
This is critical in terms of climate crisis response, especially when it comes to the effects felt by Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as efficiently functioning financial systems can enhance capacities for adaptation and better respond to loss and damage.
The letter calls for the design and implementation of mechanisms that allow for the release of public debt through “innovative instruments to finance investment requirements in infrastructure for adaptation by 2030 at the latest, with a view to addressing climate-related needs.” Among other things, it also asks for transparency with regard to the delivery of existing climate finance commitments, and proper support for a new global finance goal that “significantly surpasses” US $100 billion.
Additional finance-based points included doubling — at the very least — adaptation finance by 2025, “significantly increasing the share, amount, quality, and accessibility of adaptation, loss and damage finance,” channeling more resources to the local level, and ensuring that government policy is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement in order to build resilience, limit temperature warming to 1.5°C, and contribute to nature goals.
The signatories — which included Diana McCaulay, founder of the Jamaica Environment Trust, Nigel Edwards (executive director of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation, and Racquel Moses, CEO of Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator — feel that the purpose of COP28 is “to pivot into responding dynamically to the Global Stocktake […] to make this a turning point through which our capacity to innovate for an equitable, net-zero, resilient, and nature positive future is truly unleashed.”
The eyes of the world, and certainly of the region, will be on Dubai come November 30.