Commonwealth SG backs loss-and-damage initiative for SIDS
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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland (Photo retrieved from Jamaica Observer)
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland (Photo retrieved from Jamaica Observer)

(CMC) — Commonwealth Secretary-General Patrick Scotland says while she is pleased that at least this year, for the first time, loss and damage had been placed on the agenda of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 29), it is “a critical issue that demands our urgent action, particularly for small and other vulnerable countries that are facing the impacts of climate change as we speak.”

She told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that even as the COP27 ends here later on Friday, “concurrently in the Caribbean, communities are struggling to cope with the tail end of the Atlantic hurricane season.

“Within the past week or two Belize was struck by Hurricane Lisa, which has caused widespread damage, while heavy rains and terrible flooding are affecting St Lucia and my own country of birth, Dominica, where at least one person has died.”

She told CMC that due to their small size, geographic make-up and location, level of development and limited capacity, these vulnerable countries tend to suffer the most as a result of climate change, including having to deal with the rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather.

“This is the lived reality in the Caribbean and yet, globally, they contribute negligibly to the problem — small island developing states contribute less than one per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change.

“The Commonwealth’s stance on loss and damage is clear. In June 2022 leaders of our 56 member countries met in Kigali, Rwanda, and in their communiqué they reiterated the urgency of scaling up action and support — including finance, technology transfer and capacity building — to address loss and damage in developing countries.

“They called on developed countries, international partners as well as NGOs and private sources, to provide enhanced and additional support to deal with loss and damage. I am therefore pleased that at least this year, for the first time, loss and damage is on the official agenda of these talks,” she added.

Caribbean countries are at the forefront in advocating for the establishment of a fund to deal with loss and damage resulting from climate change, and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne is calling for oil and gas giants to pay for damage from climate change through a global carbon tax on their profits.

He told COP 27 that these giant, “profligate producers of fossil fuels have benefited from extortionate profits at the expense of human civilisation”, adding “while they are profiting, the planet is burning”.

Scotland was cautious in her response when asked whether she was confident that such an initiative will bear fruit, given that it is not the first time developed countries have spoken about the need to help small island developing states (SIDS) deal with the impact of climate change and whether she expects the COP27 to achieve anything meaningful, as some are already labelling it another talk shop.

“Climate negotiations have always been challenging, and this year it is no different. Financing and loss and damage, in particular, are contentious areas but the fact that loss and damage have finally made it on the agenda this year is progress — and so are the discussions around catalysing technical assistance to deal with loss and damage.

“We also recognise that some countries are stepping forward with concrete pledges — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand and Scotland have all pledged provide funding to help address loss and damage.

“However, others need to follow suit, and all need to ramp up commitments and ambition to support those who have already experienced the harmful effects of climate change.”

The Commonwealth secretary general said, disappointingly, developed countries have continued to fall short of their promise to jointly provide US$100 billion annually to address the adaptation and mitigation needs of developing countries, which was pledged more than a decade ago.

“In this regard Commonwealth leaders have called on developed country parties to fully deliver on this US$100-billion goal urgently and through to 2025,” she said, telling CMC the Commonwealth Secretariat is doing its part to improve access to international funds that are currently available, through the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub.

Scotland said that this initiative has already mobilised at least US$53 million to date for climate action in small and other vulnerable states.

“I am hopeful that COP27 will deliver concrete outcomes. Every step forward is progress, but we need to accelerate action because climate change impacts will continue and even worsen if we remain on the current trajectory. Climate change will not wait for us to catch up — we must act now,” the Commonwealth secretary general told CMC.

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