Castries, Saint Lucia, Monday, November 1, 2021:– Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre is among 120 leaders from 200 nations worldwide currently in Glasgow attending the 2021 Global Climate Change Summit, COP-26.
With 25,000 delegates from across the world, including one from Sweden who walked for two weeks, the meeting – officially called Conference of Parties (COP) — is a crowded affair.
Backed by the United Nations (UN) and hosted by Britain, COP-26 is regarded as the Last Chance to Save the Planet.
But it’s also seen as the final chance for Pierre and other leaders of the world’s small-island states to convince those leading the world’s largest and richest nations to care-enough to do more to help the poor and vulnerable island-nations survive the very-real challenges of both facing and paying deadly costs for climate changes they did not cause.
Leaders were invited to attend in person (and not virtually) to signal their commitment to saving to the planet.
“One minute to Midnight” was a popular phrase among all, even though with different prescriptions for better change.
Hosts, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Downing Street, called-out Britain’s Big Names to start the ball rolling at the G-20 Summit in Rome, which preceded COP-26.
Johnson described COP-26 as the most important summit of its kind for the 21st Century and “a turning point for humanity.”
Legendary British environmental campaigner Sir David Attenborough also warned, a week ahead, that “If we don’t act now, it’ll be too late…”
Pierre is among African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) leaders representing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), representing the islands of the smallest world.
They hope to convince the rich nations of the North to seriously top-up their contributions to helping vulnerable island-nations combat the ruinous effects of Climate Change.
Small islands have to virtually pay the same as those responsible for the changes, especially in the costs and consequences of air travel on their mainly tourism-dependent economies.
Besides, their persistent appeals for debt cancellation and increased financial assistance have been falling on deaf ears.
Facing more frequent, ferocious and harmful annual hurricanes and storms, constantly-rising sea levels and crop damage that takes years to recover from, new elements like the spread of volcano ash to neighboring islands were seen following the La Soufriere eruption in St. Vincent & The Grenadines last April.
The SIDS and AOSIS leaders and delegates will hope to convince the creators of today’s climate catastrophe that while they seek to monetize Climate Change to attract private sector involvement and commitment in the North, debt payments and reductions in foreign assistance from traditional Northern donors are condemning island-nations and populations to virtual climate annihilation.
But, like leaders from the North, Pierre and those of fellow SIDS will also each only have only three minutes to state their cases.
Listed among the over-100 leaders to address the summit (in alphabetical order), Pierre will share the global platform around the same time as fellow CARICOM leaders from St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Saint Lucia PM, who’ll have the unenviable task of summarizing the island’s entire case in only 180 seconds, can be expected to repeat, though quite briefly, the main bullet-points from what he told the 76th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly during his inaugural address on September 25.
Back then, he said “Climate Change continues to wreak havoc across all areas of the globe.”
Pierre told fellow UN leaders that while COVID-19 grabs the headlines, the pandemic met “a world already on an unsustainable path towards the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He advised that “with less than a decade left” to achieve the 2030 Agenda, “the UN’s Decade of Delivery requires urgent and adequate solutions towards salvaging our global living quarters.”
Pierre also noted that “the resilience needed and the adaptations required” to respond to COVID-19 “are directly relevant to the resilience and adaptation required for Climate Change.”
He argued while that the combined Pandemic and Climate Change challenges present “an intermeshed problem of symptom as cause and cause as symptom,” it also provides “a harsh and timely reminder that human health and planetary health are inextricably-linked.”
He noted, however, that “The cost of meeting these challenges and undertaking the resilience activities, whether it be for health or climate, is way beyond the financial reach of our small islands.”
Looking North, the Saint Lucia leader appealed, “especially to those most able financially able contribute towards our recovery efforts” to “pay their commitments to the Adaptation and Mitigation Funds, so that SIDS can benefit.”
He called-out the world’s larger economies — which he also noted are “the often-major contributors to greenhouse gases” to live up to their promises and responsibilities and “honor their financial pledges.”
That, he said, “would allow the smaller vulnerable economies, whose contributions to greenhouse gases are often negligible, the fiscal room to build climate-resilient societies.”
But the Saint Lucia leader isn’t alone in trying to draw global attention to the dire consequences of SIDS not getting the right attention and the world’s richest continuing to get it all wrong.
Citing the inextricable link between “COVID-19 and Climate Change”, Pierre pointed out that other SIDS leaders also strongly believe there’s a similar link between “Unequal Distribution of Vaccines and Prolongation of the Pandemic.”
Indeed, he told the UN’s largest annual gathering of world leaders, COVID will remain a problem for the rich countries for as long as the poor countries continue to be left unable to fight it at home.
Pierre may very well also find the very few words to make the same point about Climate Change longevity also being inextricably-linked to how much the North is prepared to do what is to be done to save the planet, including Europe and the Caribbean, from total extinction.