Julien Alleyne took photos of damage in St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Virgin Islands. (247719)
Credit: Julien Alleyne

The annual global climate change conference kicked off in Scotland this week with the hurricane-prone Caribbean making a spirited plea for sustained financing to deal with that phenomenon as leaders tried to get the world, western polluters in particular, to agree to keep temperature rises to a minimum or face the prospects of unbearable living conditions.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados was among the slew of world leaders speaking at the opening ceremony and she used the opportunity glibly to both attempt to drive fear of the immediate future into the minds of world leaders and experts while at the same time tugged at their hearts to get the richer nations to meet age old financial pledges to help the most affected countries deal with climate adaptation and mitigation issues.

“Code red to the G-7 countries. Code red to the G-20. The planet needs our attention now, not next year or in the next decade,” she said, pointing to fears that if global temperatures rise above 1.5º Celsius in the coming years, this could represent, for example, “a death sentence to the people of Antigua, the Maldives, Dominica, Kenya, Mozambique, Samoa and to the people of Barbados. We can work with leaders who are ready to go. The train is ready to leave the station. The leaders of today must lead,” she said as heads like Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres listened attentively, some nodding in approval as she warned about the negative effects of climate inaction by the more powerful and richer nations.

The region, affected by increasingly more powerful storms in recent decades, has been leading the charge to ensure temperatures do not exceed 1.5º as Caribbean experts have already pointed to the effects of warmer waters on coral reefs as they bleach off and die in some cases. Reefs are crucial components of aqua tourism for much of the Caribbean. Warmer waters also mean that hurricanes coming off the coast of West Africa will be able to easily gain strength in an open Atlantic. Examples of these are often cited by leaders as they point to three mega storms in the past four years––Irma, Maria and Dorian––as these devastated Dominica and several other countries in the region as far as Cuba and The Bahamas. U.N. experts have already deemed the past decade the warmest in recorded history.

Mottley used the coronavirus crisis as an example for richer countries who think that their own internal efficiency will allow them to survive unscathed as crises swirl around them. “Have we not learned from the pandemic?” she asked, reminding the conference and the global audience that all are consumed and involved. “We want to exist 100 years from now. If it is to mean anything, we have to act now.”

Close to a dozen Caribbean Community leaders are attending the summit with heavily forested countries like Guyana and neighboring Suriname already indicating that they will make a major pitch to ensure compensation from the global community for keeping their Amazonian rainforests intact, protected from over harvesting and clear felling for timber and related resources.

That apart, Antiguan Prime Minister and current bloc Chairman Gaston Browne says he is waiting patiently to table a novel idea at the summit linked to the proposed establishment of a climate commission that would seek to prosecute the world’s worst emitters whose actions result in catastrophe for others.

Browne has already floated the idea to colleagues at preparatory meetings at various levels in the bloc. If it gains traction, the plan is to get the commission set up and take cases to The World Court in The Hague, Netherlands for prosecution. “They must be made to pay for their actions. We can’t continue like this,” he said in a recent interview. 

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