CARICOM Secretariat official issues a call to action for climate resilience

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Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) Joseph Cox of the CARICOM Secretariat on Thursday 9 June said climate vulnerabilities and the threats posed by global warming represent a call to action for building strategic alliances, legislative and institutional strengthening, greater levels of public education, and effective advocacy.

Describing climate change as “the defining issue of our time,” he said CARICOM’s resolve must be to build a more sustainable and inclusive future while working in partnership with others.

ASG Cox was at the time addressing a meeting of environment officials, ahead of the 103rd Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED- Environment), scheduled for 23 June. The preparatory meeting on Thursday was anchored at CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, and chaired by Ms. June Hughes, Director, Department of Environment, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) Mr Joseph Cox

The ASG for the Directorate of Economic Integration, Innovation and Development said that the urgency of these times means that “so-called tension between environmental management and economic development, must be confronted as we no longer have the luxury of time to engage in philosophical banter in an environment where our very existence is under threat.”

Therefore, he said that laws must be strengthened to bring order to the process of development while moral suasion and continued public education must be enhanced, “to dispel the notion that sustainable development is somehow inimical to the achievement of economic growth.”

Mr. Cox urged the Community to pursue climate-resilience and low-emission economic strategies to generate sustainable jobs, attract investments, and build social resilience.

Painting a poignant picture of the climate threat, he highlighted the uncertainties renewed with every new hurricane season, and the trajectory of global warming, which puts the world on a path to higher sea levels, stronger storms, extinction of plants and animals, as well as more people dying from heat, smog, and infectious diseases.

Even in that stark reality, he said the largest source of carbon emission plans to increase coal production capacity by 300 million tons this year.

“The Region therefore cannot be expected to contribute to emissions reductions to the same extent as richer countries and will need more concessional resources,” ASG Cox added.

Underscoring how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the Region’s inherent weaknesses, he said “it exposed the persistent economic vulnerabilities of our economies, the realities of social inequalities, and highlighted the need to improve our sustainable relationship with the environment.”

Urging the Community not to ignore threats to ecosystems, he said keen attention must be paid to habitat and biodiversity loss, illegal wildlife trade, illegal deforestation, pollution, and climate change since those threats magnify and propel other crises.

When Ministers of the Environment meet on 23 June on the heel of this meeting, they will continue a discussion toward finalising the Draft CARICOM Environment and Natural Resources Policy Framework. The environment framework is designed to provide an enabling platform for environmental and natural resources management, acknowledging the vital role that land, air, water, and oceans play in sustaining the economic, social, and environmental development of CARICOM. 

Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction are central to COTED’s discussions as CARICOM keeps focused on the COP 27 agenda by participating in the preparations for the Twenty-Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November 2022.

CARICOM Ministers of Environment will discuss the strategic activities of the Caribbean Community Centre of Climate Change (CCCCC) for the next five years, including the implementation of the Revised Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (2019-2029).

Ocean Matters is also on the agenda of the 103rd COTED-Environment as Ministers review the status of the new implementing agreement under the Law of the Sea on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). Under this discussion, they will also look at efforts toward sustainable ocean-based economies in CARICOM, and preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Goal 14, which shines the spotlight on life below water.

Importantly, COTED is expected to assess CARICOM’s progress in implementing Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), including the MEAs in CARICOM – ACP – MEAS Phase 3 project, and the European Union (EU)-Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Climate Change and Health Project.

The Region’s preparations for the Preparations for Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United National Framework on Biodiversity (COP 15) will also receive the attention of CARICOM Ministers for the Environment when they meet on June 23rd.

In his remarks at the meeting of officials preparatory to 103rd COTED, ASG Cox expressed appreciation for the contribution of the European Union, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), and the Government of Japan for the assistance they provided to advance the Common Environment and Natural Resources Policy Framework.  He also acknowledged the United Kingdom for its support in the lead-up to COP 26 and for its commitment to remaining engaged with the Region.

Thursday’s Special COTED Meeting followed observance of World Oceans Day earlier this week and before that World Biodiversity Day and World Environment Day.

CARICOM Secretariat Observes World Oceans Day

Recognition of World Oceans Day coming on the heels of World Biodiversity Day,  World Environment Day ahead of the 103rd Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) – Environment and Sustainable Development to be held June 9th 2022 is an exclamation point for small island and low-lying coastal developing States.  Our dependence on the natural environment for life and livelihoods is actualized in our coastal communities, industries and productive sectors.

This year’s theme of ‘revitalization: collective action for the oceans’ is particularly relevant as CARICOM seeks this month to revitalize discussions on a comprehensive CARICOM policy framework for environment and natural resources management, including a programme of work on oceans.   Senior Environment Officials will meet on June 9th to discuss this and other pressing environmental issues, including improving coordination of regional CARICOM institutions  on ocean matters for better harmonization of regional initiatives and increased support to Member States in areas of sustainable ocean development.   This will be followed by a meeting of Ministers with responsibility for the Environment later this month during the 103rd Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development – Environment and Sustainable Development (COTED).

The opportunity to exchange knowledge, lessons and progress on sustainable oceans management, in line with year’s theme, to collectively craft solutions to the challenges in focus is both timely and necessary.

For Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS), long term sustainability implies that our recovery should be a green recovery from COVID-19 and other global shocks, and this of course has to include blue aspirations.  Before the impact of the pandemic, we recognised the tremendous potential of the ocean around us, in the services it provides, which in many cases remain untapped, underestimated and undervalued.  

World Oceans Day serves an important platform to revitalize public discourse at all levels.   CARICOM officials will discuss amongst other things, the progress made in preparing the Draft Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Strategy, Sustainable-based ocean economies in the region and preparations for the UN Conference on Oceans.

For us in CARICOM and indeed SIDS across the globe, collective action and harmony with our oceans and nature more broadly is the only way to achieve climate safety, healthy and wholesome societies and sustainable economies for generations.

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