Climate Change Negotiations - More Urgency is Needed

As the second week of climate change negotiations drew to a close in Bonn, it struck me that we had lost much of the momentum, political leadership and urgency that combined in COP21 to produce the historic Paris Agreement in 2015.

COP22 in Marrakech was a celebratory COP, as it signified the entry into force in record time of the Paris Agreement. So, not much happened there. COP23 last year in Bonn was a procedural COP, with technicians and negotiators working on developing the Rule Book to operationalize the Paris Agreement. However, with so little progress since COP23, I am not optimistic about the outcome of COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

In Bonn, I witnessed a lot of ‘kicking the decisions can’ down the road, particularly after it was revealed that there would be one more negotiating session in Bangkok before COP24 in December.

In the Caribbean we will have to step up the political pressure to prevent this from drifting into a process where nothing gets done because everything can’t get done. Our leaders and ministers must get more engaged. They need to appreciate that climate change negotiations consist of more than just agitating after an active hurricane season for more financial support. We need to reestablish our position as a strong political force in the UNFCCC process.

Fortunately, a Caribbean country, most likely either Belize or Antigua, will next year assume the chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for the next four years. We must re-energize AOSIS, to at least the levels of when Grenada last chaired on behalf of the Caribbean, so that AOSIS leads the fight in the negotiating theaters on behalf of small island States and other climate vulnerable countries.

We also must re-engage civil society, like we did successfully in 2015 with the 1.5 to Stay Alive campaign, so that everyone is committed to this process and our voices are amplified in all arenas. When civil society is engaged and active, politicians listen and act.

If we want the world to understand and believe that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential issue, we have to act with greater urgency and purpose, as if our lives and livelihoods depended on what we do and say. After all, isn’t that the definition of existential?

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