Antigua PM urges developed countries to meet their commitments

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, Monday urged the developed countries to adhere to their commitments to assist Small island Developing States (SIDS) meet the challenges posed by climate change warning “If sea level rise does not get us first, we will surely drown in debt”.

Addressing the Round Table on Action and Solidarity chaired by Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as part of the activities for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 26), Browne, who is also Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said he was doing so “through gritted teeth.

 “We are here to deliver on commitments made but we are closing out 2021 with ambition that puts us on a pathway to overshooting the 1.5 goal. Ambition is our litmus test,” Browne told the conference adding that many delegates are of the opinion that they are very close to being 1.5- degrees Celsius compatible.

“But when they fail to accept to contribute their fair share of climate finance, it puts them further away from being 1.5 compatible.”

Several Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders are attending the conference as countries work towards the global goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If this limit is exceeded, scientists have predicted that worsening climatic events will threaten people’s lives, livelihoods and food systems.

Among the actions being advocated for are the reduction in gas emissions from burning fossil fuels like oil, speeding up a transition to the use of more renewable sources of energy (such as solar and hydro energy) and adequate financing to help small, developing countries to become more resilient to climate change.

Browne, who is also chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, said when developed countries renege on their finance commitments it has knock-on effects on climate action.

“We then get demonised for having to adopt outdated technology that are dumped in our vulnerable countries, as a result of inadequate and inaccessible climate finance to implement our NDCs” which are countries’ self-defined mitigation goals.

“Reports indicate that we will not meet the US$100 billion goal until 2023, meanwhile the G20 supports the fossil fuel industry at rates of over US600 billion a year, including through excessive subsidies.

“We clearly have the money and the technology to make this transition. The economic impacts of climate disasters on SIDS surpasses our GDP, and if you need a reminder of this fact, the tropical cyclones that destroyed, Bahamas, Dominica, Fiji and my home country, Barbuda, should serve as enough evidence,” Browne said.

The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said hurricanes do not bypass vulnerable SIDS that are defined as high income.

He said gross domestic products (GDP) per capita cannot be applied to climate finance and concessional financing must be available to all SIDS in order to build our resilience to climate change.

“If sea level rise does not get us first, we will surely drown in debt. As part of any new climate finance goal AOSIS is pushing for a concrete financing sub-target for loss and damage. Trust has been eroded and islands can no longer afford to be naïve.

“If we continue to see lack of ambition on mitigation and on climate finance; loss and damage must have real teeth to force restitution. Overshooting 1.5 degrees exponentially increases the risks, and price tags of climate change impacts. You cannot continue to have it both ways.”

Browne said that the scale of adaptation finance “must reflect the mitigation pathway that we are on. Adaptation finance needs to be entirely grant-based, drastically increased, accessible, and have parity with that of mitigation.

“While we know this COP is not an end point, I would like to remind you all that “a critical decade” does not mean action in 2028 or 2029. We need to see structural changes now. Our people are suffering.”

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