Fight against rising global temperatures and ocean degradation, UNSG tells 40th CARICOM Heads
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres addressed the opening of the Fortieth Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on 3 July in Saint Lucia, focussing on issues related to climate change and other obstacles to sustainable development.
The UNSG in zeroing on the issue of climate change, called for collective advocacy to ensure that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees; new models of economic development and affordable reliable energy access are devised; and degradation of oceans is addressed.
He reflected on his visit to the Caribbean in 2017 in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, stating –
“… years of hard won development gains were destroyed in Barbuda and Dominica in only a couple of days”.
He noted that it was not the first time the Caribbean was faced with such devastation and loss and the immense challenge of rebuilding, while safeguarding development achievements; and called on the Region to work collectively to address the issue of rising global temperatures. The UNSG extended an invitation to governments and the private sector to present plans at his Action Climate Summit in 2020 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and to carbon neutrality by 2050.
With respect to a new model of economic development, he noted that island nations in the Caribbean are fast becoming ‘influential test beds for innovative climate action such as investing in decentralised renewable energy”.
“This will not only yield more economic sustainable sources of electricity, but it will also provide clean energy solutions”, he said.
“Micro girds and decentralised solar energy will ensure that all losses after storm will be shorter and less catastrophic to hospitals and businesses”, he continued.
The UNSG commended the leaders of CARICOM in presenting their bold vision to make the Caribbean the world’s first climate resilient zone. To this end he endorsed the creation of a Caribbean climate recovery resilient facility, noting that it was important and should be fully supported.
“When fully functional this facility will provide the Region’s indigenous mechanism for sourcing talent, experience, financial solutions to support CARICOM members to build resilient communities and nations”, he said.
Referring to the degradation of the oceans through pollution, the UNSG emphasised collective and continuing work to address the issue.
“We all have to work on a daily basis to counter this grave threat to eco systems and tourism sectors that are so central to your economy…. From plastic pollution to coastal erosion, more frequent extreme weather events to sea level rise and bio diversity loss, the Caribbean states face immense pressure due to the actions that are committed essentially by others”, he reminded.
The UNSG also addressed the issue of resiliency in relation to the imperatives of citizen security and access to development finance, among other issues.
The UN Secretary-General has been paying close attention to challenges in the Caribbean Community. In 2017, following the devastation by Category Five Hurricanes Irma and Maria in several Caribbean Community Member States, he visited for a first hand view and to meet affected residents. Later, he collaborated with his CARICOM counterpart Ambassador Irwin LaRocque to host the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference at UN Headquarters in November that year to support the rebuilding process and the effort to make the Caribbean Community the world’s first climate resilient region.