Caribbean strives for strength through partnerships in battle for climate security

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The team of CARICOM leaders, negotiators and support staff at the Marrakech Talks earlier this week.

Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are looking at partnerships to ensure the security of the islands’ future, in the face of global climate change.

After two weeks here — three weeks for some, notably negotiators — it is clear that this will be critical.

The truth is, negotiating climate change is like dancing the Tango. To be effective, you need to be familiar with the music and if you’re not, you need to get familiar — and fast. Essential, too, is having a partner because no one dances the Tango alone. What is more, you need to know, understand and remain in sync with your partner, ever mindful of his/her foot.

Jamaica gets it, as do other Caribbean countries, whose leaders have been working — backed by their team of seasoned negotiators, which CARICOM has — in concert with each other and key international partners to get what they need from the negotiations. No where was this more evident than in Paris last year and they have continued those efforts this year.

“Climate change is of fundamental importance to Jamaica, ensuring that we have strong regulation, and monitoring regulations, in place to ensure that Jamaica is put in the best possible position to mitigate and to adapt — and do so as far as is absolutely necessary for our survival. Jamaica is, of course, a part of CARICOM where we have many common issues and we are also a part of AOSIS [Alliance of Small Island States]…” noted Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith.

“We continue to foster these relationships, very much as part of our strategy to ensure that we are a part of a body and a group of islands that have shared concerns, shared interests and shared vulnerabilities. This has given us additional strength at the bargaining table and in the negotiating process  — and one we certainly intend to continue to ensure,” she added.

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Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister (second right) and UnaMay Gordon (left), head of the Climate Change Division with Petre Williams-Raynor (right), Country Director, Panos Caribbean – Jamaica, and Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, consultant with Panos Caribbean.

Johnson Smith emphasized the role of partnerships in ensuring success here at what has been dubbed a “procedures COP” and later, as the wrangling over climate change, and, more particularly, on climate finance, continues.

Up to this afternoon, discussions were still ongoing on long-term climate financing, even as countries speculate on the future of such funds from the United States, with businessman and climate sceptic Donald Trump set to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

“Bilaterlal relations are always important to sustain and support our multilateral spaces. Jamaica is to continue to ensure that we are well positioned in both. Our foreign policy certainly looks at strengthening partnerships with existing partners and we are also looking at strengthening relationships with non-traditional partners and new partners within the Hispano-phone countries, which are near to us, such as the Dominican Republic, stronger relations with Cuba, stronger relations with Panama and Mexico,” Johnson Smith noted.

Several Caribbean heads of state have made the effort to be present in Marrakech for this the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. They included David Granger from Guyana, Allen Chastanet from Saint Lucia, Ralph Gonsalves from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Roosevelt Skerrit from Dominica, and Andrew Holness from Jamaica.

What is more, they came with some clear goals in mind.

“One of the reasons for me attending here is to be able to meet the other world leaders. Today (Tuesday, November 15) was a very successful day in that. I had a long talk with the Caribbean leaders who were here, including Saint Lucia. Prime Minister Chastanet and myself discussed the issue of the structure of the funding,” Holness said.

“There are various ideas about how we can access the funding. I think where there is an agreement is that countries like ourselves need to improve our capacity to write the projects, to gather the data, to analyse the data and to present a case to access the funding. There is also a great deal, I would say, of suspicion, disbelief that countries will actually get the resources and the magnitude of resources necessary and so there is usually some attempt to say ‘let’s go and negotiate bilaterally’,” he added.

Holness issued a caution in this while reflecting the position of minister Johnson Smith concerning unity in strength.

“I think staying together as a group, keeping the funding on an international agreement level is also beneficial. That does not stop you, of course, from negotiating bilaterally for assistance,” he said.

The Marrakech Climate Talks are to end officially today.

 

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Author:

I am a Jamaican journalist, writer, development worker and nascent 'social media student'. I have had a longstanding interest in environmental reporting, thanks in part to my first editor and good friend, Charmaine Clarke, who threw me, head first, into the coverage of same. I have no regrets.

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