At COP24, we were not surprised to see contention arising between grown delegates over the use of miniscule words. It happened last year, this year, and it is with high confidence that we declare it will happen at COP25, whether it is hosted by Costa Rica or Chile.
The heated, vocabulary-driven discord this time around surrounded the following question – do we use “note” or “welcome,” in referring to the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report – Global Warming of 1.5°C?
The words may be small, but they pack a huge punch and can determine the climate action taken or not taken by countries around the world.
Scientific Evidence for the 1.5 Degree Target
Unconcerned with the Report’s findings that limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of below 2°C, could help avoid some of the most terrible effects of climate change, and potentially save vulnerable regions such as low-lying islands and coastal villages in the Arctic, four large oil and gas producers remained adamant in their denial.
Saudi Arabia, the United States, Kuwait and Russia said it was enough for the Members of the UN climate convention (the UNFCCC) to “note” the findings, while undeveloped countries, SIDS, Europeans and supported a motion to “welcome” the study.
In response, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) joined together to strongly support the IPCC Special Report and the 1.5°C Target. CARICOM negotiators had a singular message to share – We need 1.5 to Stay Alive.
Here are five reasons why the Caribbean welcomes the IPCC Special Report
It’s just too little too late
We are already at 1°C of warming and may reach 1.5°C as early as 2030 if warming continues at existing rates. If emissions stopped today we would be unlikely to reach 1.5°C – we are not yet locked in to 1.5°C. However, we are already experiencing irreversible loss and damage in land and ocean ecosystems as a result of climate change. The Caribbean need not look too far back, having experience the worst hurricane season on record in September 2017 and many islands suffering ongoing and worsening droughts across the region.
Climate Change is Killing Us Softly
The risks of climate change are worse than previously projected, with significant differences in risks between 1.5°C and 2°C for many regions, particularly for small islands. Small islands face limits to adaptation, as well as the potential of irreversible losses of marine and coastal ecosystems at 1.5°C. Small islands face disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences due to increased global warming, including risks to coastal and marine resources, livelihoods, health, water supply, food security, human security, economic growth and sustainable development.
You’re Gonna Miss Us When We’re Gone
In addition, 70-90% of coral reefs will be severely degraded at 1.5°C of warming, increasing to 99% at 2°C with severe impacts on the ecosystems, and on the communities and livelihoods that rely upon them. Instabilities in ice sheets could be triggered at around 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming, resulting in irreversible multi-metre sea level rise.
We’re Under Pressure
Current nationally-stated mitigation ambitions as submitted under the Paris Agreement would fail to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Current mitigation ambitions cumulatively track toward 3-4°C of warming by 2100 with the potential for further warming thereafter. Ambitions need to be improved and rules need to be in favour of 1.5.
Global emissions need to peak around 2020 and the world needs to halve the amount of global CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by 2030. The world must ensure that CO2 emissions stop by 2050 and steeply reduce the use of coal and work toward a global phase out by 2050
Money, Money, Money, must be funny, in a Rich Man’s World
To achieve 1.5°C, there must be increasing investments in a range of mitigation efforts, including shifting financial flows towards renewable energy. There are critical positive linkages between limiting warming to 1.5oC and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The international community needs to act with utmost urgency to rapidly shift financial flows to facilitate and effect pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C.
Yes, these fives reasons are represented in song, but this is serious business.
In its Regional Statement on the IPCC Report, CARICOM makes known that it welcomes the adoption of the IPCC Special Report, highlights the Report’s findings that holding warming to 1.5°C throughout the 21st Century is technically and economically feasible and is likely to have considerable sustainable development benefits, and stresses that urgent action on emissions reduction is required, bolstered by real commitment to ambitious action from Governments and non-state actors
Indeed, the Report is a game changer as it provides strong scientific support for the disproportionate risks facing small islands at 1.5°C. Limiting temperatures to 1.5°C is feasible, but would require widespread and transformative change and international cooperation. Our response to climate change must be underpinned by equity, social justice and the best available science.
COP24 must seize the opportunity to slow the dangerous trend of rising temperatures. The Caribbean supports the 1.5 degree target. It’s not just a matter of “noting” or “welcoming.” For us, it’s a matter of survival or greater losses and damages.