The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -dubbed COP 21- is scheduled to take place in Paris in December 2015. The COP is an annual meeting occurring since 1994, where all countries that are signatory to the UNFCCC discuss global plans to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - the main culprit of rising global temperatures. This year, the negotiations are about reaching an agreement that will demand action from all countries to curb this climate problem. It is decided that a global agreement must be delivered at the COP-21. For the OECS, there is hope that a favorable climate deal will be met which will bring relief to the mounting social, economic and environmental impacts faced as Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Recognizing that the stakes are high, the OECS has embarked on a number of initiatives and partnerships to advocate for a meaningful agreement and in parallel to sensitize its citizens to COP 21 by providing a platform for exchange of information.
OECS Partnership to engage civil society
In recent years, the OECS Commission in partnership with various Development Partners has embarked on a programme of collaboration on climate change. In January, 2015, through the collaboration of OECS and Government of France, the Working Partners for ‘Paris Climate 2015” (WPPC 2015) was launched and serves to a) provide a platform for information exchange among civil society in the OECS on issues relating to climate change; b) support the process of engagement; and c) facilitate a programme of sensitization among civil society.
To date, a number of activities have been undertaken and many are planned, including citizens’ engagement in all the OECS Member States in various forms; a regional civil society symposium; newspaper articles and weekly broadcast on the OECS newslink on issues related to COP 21 and climate change. Further, the OECS plans to have a presence at the COP 21 forum in the form of a designated journalist (among others) to provide timely information on the negotiation process with the aim of keeping the citizens informed. More information on WPPC, 2015 can be accessed at http://www.oecs.org/our-work/forum/wppc2015
OECS Diplomatic Initiative in COP 21
OECS through the Office of the Director General continues to advocate at the various diplomatic levels to ensure that the challenges, impacts, concerns and requirements of the OECS, Caribbean nations and SIDS in general are known and considered in the negotiations. Active engagement to shape the CARICOM negotiating position is being pursued and a Caribbean Declaration was presented at the recently concluded climate change Summit convened by the Regional Council of Martinique in May 2015.
Expectations and optimism
Fewer than 180 days to the Paris conference, yet deep differences persist on several issues, and the frantic pursuit of a compromise continues. However, COP 21 offers a renewed opportunity for the global community to show maturity to the cause and effect of climate change, which must be addressed with an appropriate sense of urgency. The OECS Commission will continue to partner with various Development Partners, to champion climate change on behalf of its citizenry and to ensure it remains at the forefront of the dialogue leading to COP 21 and beyond.
About the Author: Asha Singh holds a Ph.D. in Marine Policy awarded for research done on ‘SIDS, sustainability and the Caribbean Sea’ and is employed as Head, Oceans Governance Unit.