COP 26 a public relations exercise, says Antigua’s prime minister

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has described the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow as a “public relations exercise”, even as he acknowledged that there had been some “benefits” to the event.

Browne said that the establishment of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law is likely to be one of the most significant outcomes of the November 1-12 conference.

The commission creates an avenue through which larger countries can be held accountable for their role in global warming and its impact on the most vulnerable states.

“We will be writing to the international tribunal on the Law of the Sea to get a final determination on the liability and I am pretty sure by the next Cop for sure we would have made a lot of progress and this matter will become far more significant, said Browne, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, (AOSIS).

Browne said that AOSIS had detailed a number of issues it wanted debated ahead of the meeting, including compensation for loss and damage due to climate change from the world’s major polluters.

The Prime Minister, who is also chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, CARICOM, shared the recent views echoed by the executive director of the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCC), Dr Colin Young, who said that the larger countries were basically kicking the can down the road when it comes to meeting their commitments on climate change.

Browne said that among the matters not considered at the meeting were increased subsidies to green energy, reducing fossil fuels and an increased scale for funding for small islands.

“We want to see subsidies going to renewables to reduce the price. Electric vehicles (EV) for example . . . we need to see subsidies going . . . to reduce the price of electric vehicles so that we can transit from these fossil vehicles into EVs.

”We also wanted to see increased scale of funding so that more monies would be made available to small island states and other developing countries to adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change and even to have some form of mechanism for compensation for loss and damage.

“Those are among the objectives we had established going into the COP 26, but unfortunately if you look beyond the incremental gains COP 26 was merely a PR exercise, a great PR platform,” Browne said.

But he did acknowledge that some benefits had been attained.

He said it is now left to the SIDS and other developing countries that have to deal with the actions of the developed countries.

“If we don’t increase our climate ambitions to reduce emissions, to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius  then obviously there will be catastrophic consequences and the irony about it is that it is the small island states in the Caribbean, in the Pacific and in the Indian ocean, they are the ones that are in the front line and they are the ones that will suffer disproportionately.

‘We have to continue to fight strenuously to advocate in a most vociferous way to get these large emitters to reduce their emission,” Browne added.

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