UNFCC Global Ambassador and CEO, Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator shares her reflections on COP26
If you follow regional and global news, last November you may have heard of an event called COP26. But what exactly is COP and why should we in the Caribbean pay close attention to this global climate conference?
For almost three decades, the UN has been bringing together almost every country in the world for global climate summits – called COPs (Conference of the Parties). During that time climate change has escalated from being a fringe issue to one of global urgency. COP26, held in Glasgow in November 2021, was the 26th instalment of COP.
COP26 influence on regional transformation
In the Caribbean, we may be far removed geographically from the larger nations that are leading contributors to climate change, but we are directly in the firing line of the effects of climate change.
International gatherings like COP26 have a direct influence on how effectively we as a region can lead in discussions necessary for reducing global carbon emissions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
These convenings also help us to attract funding to adapt to the changes that we anticipate and that are already taking place. The challenge has always been converting financial pledges made at COP into actionable delivery with accountability.
Over a decade ago, developed countries committed to mobilise US$100 billion per year by 2020 in support of climate action in developing countries. This has not materialised as intended. This may sound like a lot but consider that the world military expenditure in 2020 was estimated at just under US$2 trillion or US$2,000 billion.
This US$100 billion pledge was not meant to be a gift, in many instances this funding materialises in the form of concessionary loans, but more importantly, was pledged because the carbon in the atmosphere was as a result of the industrial revolution from which the economies making these pledges benefited financially. These pledges are a minute fraction of their development gains that have caused significant harm to those that didn’t benefit.
According to CARICOM Today, hurricanes Irma and Maria cost Caribbean tourism alone more than US$700 million and resulted in an estimated loss of 826,100 visitors to the region. Those tourists could have spent US$741 million and sustained more than 11,000 jobs.
Up to today, impacted countries are still in varying degrees of recovery and if these financial commitments were readily accessible, the Caribbean would be in a stronger position in future-proofing our economies and livelihoods.
Opportunities abound at COP26
It is against this backdrop that I attended COP26 in the capacity as a United Nations Global Ambassador in the Race to Zero, Race to Resilience, and CEO of Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator.
We went with the clear mission of pursuing greater rigour in measuring action against climate commitments, increasing climate financing commitments to Caribbean countries, offering our resilience scorecard initiative as a measure to direct funding flows to build regional resilience and, core to our work, matchmaking climate-focused projects with funding to accelerate their development.
COP26 was an opportunity for us to have an equal say on the global stage and let the world know that the Caribbean needs the financial commitments promised to us if we are to make our nations more resilient and better equipped to minimise losses from future climate-related emergencies.
The responses we received were extremely encouraging and the support shown for the projects we are supporting provides optimism that this is a challenge we all can overcome, but the time to act is now.
We are in this together
Though climate-financing pledges were made at COP26, and US$413 million pledged to assist vulnerable countries, a considerable gap still exists. As such, I have made it our mission to redouble our efforts on behalf of the region to deepen relationships with potential investors, donors, and philanthropists, all with the aim of attracting increased climate investment commitments for Caribbean nations.
But the responsibility is not solely for organisations such as ours or even governments alone. Political will is driven by the people. It is imperative that we make our collective voices and actions count. We can influence government policies and spending in areas that facilitate future-proof national adaptation.
Through our purchasing decisions, we can make companies improve their business models.
How many of us take the time to find out basic information about products we purchase, its place of manufacture, what that company’s sustainability policies are, what is the gender and inclusion policy of the company etc?
We must pivot from the position of accepting the norm, to action and accountability that serves to preserve the wondrous planet we call home and make our world an even better place.
As another example, families planning their child’s future education should first ask themselves; will there even be a future for our children in 20 years? If so, what type of future will it be?
For further information about the work done by Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator or to find out how you can get involved, visit www.caribbeanaccelerator.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.
24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. Let us all take seriously the stewardship that we have been entrusted to keep this land beautiful.