The Caribbean is uniquely placed to bridge solutions between international communities and chart a pathway forward in pioneering innovative finance approaches on climate change, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC) Simon Stiell has said.
Mr Stiell was speaking as he delivered the 2023 William G. Demas Memorial Lecture at the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) 53rd Annual Meeting in St Lucia on Tuesday (June 20). The thematic emphasis of the Lecture came against the background of the Region’s ongoing challenges with mobilising financing to address the accelerating effects of the climate crisis.
Mr Stiell pointed out that developing countries need nearly six trillion dollars to meet their 2050 climate commitments. He noted that climate action was not merely an issue between the global North and the global South and that a proactive bridge was needed between the two regions, with voices able to champion a progressive third way.
“The Caribbean is the region that can make the difference now in this moment of consequence. It has done it before, and it can do it again. The way forward is yours to design. Build bridges, find solutions, and chart the path forward,” he said.
In the immediate term, Mr Stiell noted that more finance needs to be made available in 2023 and that a roadmap for unlocking significantly more finance between now and 2030 is also needed. He urged Caribbean banking institutions to lean in on financing products.
“There are countries within the negotiating arena who see it as their role to hold up progress in negotiations and refuse to take action at home until sufficient finance is delivered to support it. There are others who refuse to provide all the finance promised until they see meaningful action is being taken elsewhere,” he said.
“We need a third way that delivers for those that need it most. That means action and provision of support to enable further action in an upward iterative spiral. To take action, you need finance as an enabler. So, both of these things have to happen, and they both have to happen right now,” Mr Stiell said.
Mr Stiell noted that William G. Demas was “a brilliant economist”, who understood the essential role of finance in determining the options available and providing the freedom to choose one’s own path towards a just and prosperous society.
“His (Demas) work is now more important than ever and the things he cultivated, are as relevant for our time of post-pandemic climate change, and geopolitical turbulence as they were when he guided the Caribbean 50 years ago,” said Mr Stiell, a former Grenadian Minister for Climate Resilience and the Environment and Minister of State with responsibility for human resource development and the environment.
Leaders from the Caribbean and other regions will meet in Dubai later this year for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28), where an official stocktake on the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement will be conducted.
“The Caribbean region was one of the frontrunners pushing for the 1.5-degree Celsius target in the Paris Agreement. Those negotiating on our behalf knew all too well that 1.5 wasn’t just a commitment, it was a lifeline, and it would require them to be agents of extraordinary change to deliver it. Despite a litany of hurdles, we succeeded,” said Mr Stiell.
“At this global stock take, we cannot afford weak or disparate approaches. More than grand statements we need people to roll up their sleeves; People willing to sit together in a room to figure out for as long as it takes, the how,” he stated.
William G. Demas was a Trinidadian and Tobagonian politician, banker, and the first Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, serving from 1973 to 1974. He was also Secretary-General of the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement (CARIFTA) from 1969 to 1973.