Caribbean countries are working to learn the best ways to finance measures for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said in a press conference on Aug. 26.
Dr. Wheatley recently conferred with Caribbean Community heads of government, environment ministers and foreign ministers at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change hosted in the Bahamas.
“As we all know, the Caribbean in particular is vulnerable to stronger hurricanes, as well a sea-level rises and droughts,” he said.
Caricom associate members including the VI, Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos also held a Caribbean overseas territories caucus.
“We agreed that greater engagement with the United Nations on alternative forms of climate finance for overseas territories was critical as well as further discussions with the United Kingdom government on financial support and technical assistance to the overseas territories to adapt to climate change,” the premier said.
Dr. Wheatley also commended the Bahamian government for arranging for heads of government to fly to Trinidad and attend the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo II.
“The expo was inspirational to say the least and provided a real vision for agriculture in the Caribbean as we strive to become more self-sufficient in food production,” he said. “As a region, we must reduce our food import bill to give us a greater sense of food security, especially during these uncertain times where inflation is running rampant.”
The premier added that his government is moving quickly to establish a new Agriculture and Fisheries Authority as prescribed by the Food Security and Sustainability Act, 2022, which recently received Governor John Rankin’s assent.
Caricom members also began planning for the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Egypt in November.
At the event, Dr. Wheatley said, nations from around the world will focus on how to slow global warming.
“We are aligned in our view that the countries who are releasing the large majority of CO-2 gas emissions into the atmosphere should deliver on their pledges of financial support promised to small island developing states and other groups of vulnerable countries,” Dr. Wheatley said. “We are also of the view that we must hasten our transition to renewable energy to mitigate the economic and environmental risks associated with fossil fuels, such as the sharp spike in the price of oil and gas.”
At the COP26 meeting last November in Glasgow, former Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley lobbied for climate change mitigation funding from the UK.
He also pledged commitment to a newly created alliance of Caribbean and Latin American leaders; touted the Anegada solar project as a sign of the territory’s commitment to a renewable energy transition; and said passing legislation such as revamped building codes will be crucial for climate-change adaptation.
Representatives in Glasgow eventually signed an agreement to reconvene in a year with ambitious plans to rein in emissions, though many small island nations remained unimpressed with a lack of recognition for the imminent danger facing them.
Window for action
Such concerns were echoed on Aug. 26 by Natural Resources and Labour Minister Mitch Turnbull, who joined the premier at the press conference.
Mr. Turnbull warned that the window for action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a commitment outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement — is narrowing.
“This target has been identified as critical for small islands to survive and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” he said.
Also during the press conference, the premier thanked former members of the VI Climate Change Trust Fund for being willing to resume their duties after their membership was revoked by the Virgin Islands Party government shortly after it took power in February 2019. Mr. Turnbull apologised to former members on Aug. 18 and invited them to return.
On Aug. 26, Dr. Wheatley added, “They can be assured that Government of National Unity supports the critical and independent work that they will be doing in helping to mobilise and deploy resources to help build the climate resilience of this territory.”