Antigua: 1.5 to stay alive

Dr James Fletcher, St Lucian Minister with responsibility for sustainable development.

One point five to stay alive is the catch phrase that small island developing states like Antigua & Barbuda have coined ahead of crucial climate talks in Paris, France, later this year. The figure relates to an ambitious target set by these countries to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 per cent.

Industrialised nations that are being blamed for the rise in global temperatures are likely to settle on a 2 per cent temperature rise limit, but OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules said this is not enough.

OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules
OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules

“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us. One point five to stay alive,” Jules told a gathering of media workers who are preparing to cover the talks.

“Countries that are high emitters of greenhouse gases should be responsible and should not seek any comfort to limiting global temperature rise to two degrees centigrade, but rather to below 1.5 degrees.

Regional journalists and musicians meet in St Lucia
Regional journalists and musicians meet in St Lucia

“The Alliance of Small Island States has made it clear that it wants below 1.5 degrees centigrade reflected as a long term temperature goal and a benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year,” he said.

Dr James Fletcher, who is the OECS’ lead spokesman at the negotiations in Paris, answered “why” the 1.5 per cent is important.

He said if temperatures warm by 2 per cent, or more, it will cause rainfall to reduce by 10-20 per cent.

“Almost every island of the Caribbean is going through a drought. Think of 10-20 per cent less water than what you have now and you will get an idea of how serious this problem is from a water security angle,” he said.

Dr Fletcher, who is also St Lucia’s Sustainable Development Minister, said it’s not just rising temperatures that will devastate life in the Caribbean but rising sea levels too. He said the projection is for a 1-2 metre rise in sea levels by the end of the 21st century.

“A one meter sea level rise in the Caribbean area would mean approximately 13 hundred square kilometre of land area being lost,” the minister said.

That’s equal to the land area of Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Anguilla combined.

He said that rise in sea levels would also displace 110,000 people; damage 149 tourist resorts; five power plants; 21 Caricom airports; and inundate lands surrounding 35 Caribbean ports; among other consequences.

Dr Fletcher said a 2 per cent rise in sea level would do even more damage and cost the region billions to rebuild.

Dr Jules said this is the reason funding will be high on the agenda of the OECS leading into and at the Paris conference.

“You have seen the results of some of the hurricanes. The cost of recovery from these things is astronomical and so proper financing to build resilience and prevent the disastrous impact is going to cost a lot of money.”

He said the region will ask the industrialised countries to stop the actions in their own countries that have a negative trickle-down effect on the Caribbean.