UN boss urges region to maintain fight against climate change

Berlin, Germany - November 04: Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, attends a press conference in german foreign office on November 04, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said yesterday that the Caribbean experience in dealing with the impact of climate change makes it “abundantly clear that we must urgently reduce global emissions and work collectively to ensure that global temperature does not go beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels”.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the 40th Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit here, Guterres said he is urging all leaders from governments and the private sector to present plans at the upcoming Climate Action Summit or at the latest by December 2020 “to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We must massively increase our ambition to advance low emission and resilient development, including addressing loss and damage from climate change,” Guterres said. “We need all hands on deck to make this transformation possible.”

He said Caricom and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) have taken the lead, adding, “You are our important allies in the fight against climate disruption.

“We hear your voices loud and clear in the negotiation halls. You have been stalwart advocates for a 1.5-degree threshold for over a decade, pushing leaders to devise new models of economic development and affordable, reliable energy access.”

Guterres said that Caribbean countries are fast becoming influential test beds for innovative climate action, such as investing in decentralised renewable energy.

“This will not only yield more economically sustainable sources of electricity, but it will provide clean energy solutions. Microgrids and decentralised solar energy systems will also ensure that power losses after storms will be shorter and less catastrophic to homes, hospitals and businesses.”

He said investing in sustainable development also means investing more in concrete conservation and resilience measures.

The UN boss said that around eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans annually, and in the Caribbean the impact of this pollution is seen quite clearly.

“We need to fight climate change, we need to fight also against the degradation of oceans that, unfortunately, we have not been able to stop. We all have to act on a daily basis to counter these grave threats to marine ecosystems and the tourism sector — that are so central to your economies.

“From plastic pollution to coastline erosion, more frequent extreme weather events, sea level rise, and biodiversity loss, Caribbean states face immense pressure due to the actions that are committed, essentially, by others,” Guterres said.

He commended Caricom leaders in presenting a bold vision to make the Caribbean the world’s first Climate Resilient Zone.

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