By Peter Richards CASTRIES, St. Lucia, July 4, CMC – Guyana Wednesday called on the Caribbean to continue to leverage “our extreme exposure to climate change” as it seeks to forge and advocate a common position on the matter.
President Donald Ramotar, addressing the ceremonial opening of the 33rd Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit here, said that of all the vulnerabilities facing the region, none poses a more direct threat to the region’s existence than climate change.
He said that the summit, which is being attended by all of the 15 member countries, except the leaders of The Bahamas, Belize, and Montserrat, was being held immediately after the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil.
He said that the international negotiations on climate change matters were “going much too slow while emissions are on an acceptably high trajectory and finance for adaptation and mitigation woefully inadequate.
“We recognise that the Durban meeting established an adaptation mechanism, a technology mechanism and a green climate fund. But it is essential that agreement is reached by this year on the new and additional sources of financing for the fund and that a REDD plus window be established to reduce deforestation and incentivise forest conservation and sustainable forest management”.
He said that while the region supports a process to achieve a long term global agreement through the Durban Platform, “we must uphold the principle of historical responsibility of some parties and the concomitant principle of common but differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries”.
He said that in much the same manner, the region exists in an international economic environment that is increasingly unpredictable and unhelpful to the circumstances of small states.
Ramotar said that as Europe struggle to find solutions to its economic and financial crisis, it is imperative for the region to discuss its own economic situation, lamenting the fact that several years after a new framework had been agreed upon, “we are back in St. Lucia where the regional economy is still a main item on the agenda.
“We should not as a region, have to react to situations, but ensure that preventative measures are put in place. We must as a region be more earnest in our efforts to define a development agenda that is responsive to the evolving global circumstances we face and the domestic realities of our smallness and our vulnerabilities,” he added.
Ramotar said that the region should also look beyond its traditional trading partners so as to minimise the impact of the crises that were causing “such havoc” in Europe and in North America.
“In the past we have built strong relations with Europe, the US and Canada. This is only natural when you consider our history. Our origins in this region are linked to Europe and our geographic location has naturally seen us having very close relations with North America.
“We should continue to promote and build on those relations in our mutual interest. However to minimise the economic and social impact which we experience when those areas find themselves sin difficulties we must begin to broaden our relations,” he said, urging closer cooperation with countries in the South.
He said this must include countries that are geographically proximate to the region, such as Brazil and China.
“Developing these relations is important in minimizing any social and economic dislocation that could result problems in the North and the South”.
Ramotar, who has led responsibility for agriculture, was also critical of the region in its failure to decrease the three billion (US) food import bill, adding that he would soon be initiating discussions on the priority actions in the sector with key regional stakeholders.
“Across our region we must invest more in food production,” he said, noting that “we have to become more self sufficient.
“This can be achieved if more impetus is given to the regional agricultural transformation programme which, through the Jagdeo Initiative would encourage production and productivity, strengthen our competitiveness and secure better market access”.
In his address, Ramotar was also critical of countries that have yet to make the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final court replacing the London-based Privy Council.
“How can we, half a century into our lives as independent nations, be content with reposing in judges far removed from our regional and domestic realities, the right to be the final arbiters in our justice system,” he asked, adding “let us muster the political will to ensure that the intended jurisdictional boundaries of the Caribbean Court of Justice are realised.
“To do otherwise would be consciously or unconsciously fostering doubt in our abilities. This si not the time for that, it is a time to take those steps confidently,” he told his regional colleagues.