A Virgin Islands delegation led by Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley arrived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates last week to attend the United Nations’ most important global meeting on climate change.

The Conference of the Parties 28 meeting, convened by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is an opportunity for the VI and other Caribbean countries to advocate for monies that are being set aside by the world’s major economic powers to benefit developing nations that are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

Loss and damage fund

Ahead of the meeting — which began last Thursday and runs until Tuesday — world leaders committed to “operationalise” the “loss and damage fund” that was set up after the COP 27 meeting in 2022, according to a press release from the UN.

The UAE and Germany each pledged to donate $100 million to the effort, and other nations have made smaller gifts.

Dr. Wheatley, who attended along with Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley, said ahead of the meeting that he planned to partner with his Caribbean counterparts to attract global funds to mitigate the effects of climate change on the region.

“We will advance for climate justice, where major polluters recognise their responsibility to assist those disproportionately affected, in adaption and mitigation, by adopting metrics which properly assess eligibility for concessional finance,” the premier said in a press release.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Wheatley served as the lead panelist at a VI-hosted event at a pavilion sponsored by the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

The premier used the event to argue that overseas territories such as the VI should be granted access to international climate finance opportunities.

VI trust fund

As a precursor to the Dubai meeting, Dr. Wheatley met in Grenada in September with leaders from the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as part of the Caribbean Small Island Developing States High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change.

There, Caribbean leaders pledged to make good use of any outside funds, a pledge Dr. Wheatley repeated in his recent press release.

“We will also promote the Virgin Islands’ readiness to receive funding and investment due to our advanced legislative framework, our Climate Change Trust Fund, and a bevy of costed, approved projects,” he said.

The VI set up the CCTF in 2015 in theory but has yet to fund it. Dr. Wheatley acknowledged in the release that the government is still working to “operationalise” the trust fund.

28th conference

The Dubai meeting is the 28th major conference that the UN has hosted on climate change. It aims to assess work to reduce global emissions since the Paris Agreement formally took effect in 2016.

That accord is designed to keep the increase in global average temperature to below two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. However, policymakers and scientists have since recognised the need to hold warming limits to the even lower 1.5-degree level.

To do that, UN officials have said that greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and fall by some 43 percent by 2030.

In Dubai, Dr. Wheatley and Mr. Wheatley were joined by Angela Burnett-Penn, climate change officer in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change. Also present was Tracy Bradshaw, the territory’s acting representative to the United Kingdom and European Union.