by Desmond Brown – Executive Editor, Caribbean News Service
The tiny twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda does not produce 0.01% of the harmful carbon emissions now polluting the atmosphere. In fact, Antigua and Barbuda and all of its Caribbean neighbours combined do not.Rather than being polluters, these countries are the victims of other people’s pollution.
Less than a month ago, on October 15, Antigua and Barbuda communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a set of actions it intends to take to help keep global temperature rise to under 2 degrees C. Countries across the globe have committed to outline similar actions, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
But Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America Sir Ronald Sanders is concerned about the impact the INDCs will have on the country’s financial sector.
“It will have an effect on more than the financial sector. What it will have an effect on is government spending,” Sir Ronald told Caribbean News Service (CNS) in a telephone interview from Washington.
“These developing countries want to create a situation for climate change adaptation and mitigation in which one size would fit all feet and of course it’s a nonsensical approach. That is why small countries have been arguing for standards but with a differentiated approach depending on the size of the country and its resources and so on.”
Sir Ronald does not deny that Antigua and Barbuda needs to contribute to actions to fight climate change. In fact, he said it’s in this country’s interest to do so.
However, he said Antigua and Barbuda simply does not have the money, adding that this is really what the whole climate change argument is now going to boil down to.
“Who is going to provide the money for the adaptation and mitigation that is required? Now, what Antigua was careful to say in submitting its ambitions for adaptation and mitigation, is that it cannot do it without external assistance. And that’s the point. All of this would require such an enormous amount of money that it could not possibly be generated within the country,” he said.
Under Antigua and Barbuda’s INDCs, there are five Conditional Adaptation Targets. These are to increase seawater desalination capacity by 50 percent above 2015 levels by 2025; to improve and prepare all buildings for extreme climate events, including drought, flooding and hurricanes by 2030; to have 100 percent of electricity demand in the water sector and other essential services (including health, food storage and emergency services) met through off grid renewable sources by 2030; and to have an affordable insurance scheme available for farmers, fishers, and residential and business owners to cope with losses resulting from climate change by 2030.
The cost of implementing Antigua and Barbuda’s adaptation targets is estimated at approximately US$ 20 million per year for the next 10 years, and the cost for implementing the mitigation targets is estimated at approximately US$ 220 million.
Sir Ronald is worried that Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean countries have set their levels of ambition too high.
“Why are we setting our ambitions at such a level that it is so enormously expensive? It is one thing to say we would like these things ideally; it’s another thing to pay for it so that’s why in the Antiguan submission, if it is read carefully, you will see it says that this is the level of ambition that we have for adaptation and for mitigation but it is conditional upon the financing being available from the international community,” he said.
“Clearly, what it is saying by inference is that the Antigua and Barbuda Government cannot possibly generate that kind of money in the short space of time that is being required. The dates are 2025 and 2030 so that is 10 and 15 years away from now. It’s just absolutely impossible.”
A recently released report by the UNFCCC secretariat, assessing the collective impact of more than 140 national climate action plans, indicates that together they can dramatically slow global emissions into the atmosphere.
Another key finding is that the aggregate impact of the INDCs will lead to a fall in per capita emissions over the coming 15 years.
“These INDCs – or national climate action plans – represent a clear and determined down-payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations. Governments from all corners of the Earth have signalled through their INDCs that they are determined to play their part according to their national circumstances and capabilities,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.
“Fully implemented, these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: as a floor they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built. I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time – the journey to a climate safe-future is underway and the Paris agreement to be inked in Paris can confirm, and catalyse that transition.
“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” said Ms. Figueres.
The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) will take place from November 30 to December 11 in Paris, France.
Countries first signed on to the notion of INDCs at the UN’s 2013 climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, otherwise known as COP19.
The final text invited all governments, who were “ready to do so”, to set out their intended contribution to the Paris deal by the “first quarter of 2015”.