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Climate change goes beyond environmental concerns for countries like SVG

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Tue Dec 16, 2014

Over the past few weeks, attempts have been made at the regional and national levels to highlight the burning issue of climate change, its effects and implications and how we should prepare ourselves to respond to this serious threat.{{more}}

At the same time, at the global level, high-level officials from governments, international and regional institutions as well as representatives from civil society organisations from 194 countries were locked in negotiations in Lima, Peru, aimed at arriving at an internationally-binding agreement on the same subject.

That Global Conference on Climate Change was supposed to end last Friday, but such was the intensity of the debate, that the conference had to be extended for two extra days in order to arrive at an agreement. Finally some sort of agreement was reached, following serious rifts between developing and developed countries, though in the opinion of many with interest in environmental matters, the agreement arrived at does not go far enough.

As has been happening in previous attempts to reach a global consensus, the differences were largely around the divisions between developed and developing countries as to who should foot the bill for global actions aimed at rectifying the damage and for compensation for the detrimental effects already being experienced.

In the case of small developing countries like ours, environmentally-, economically-, and socially-vulnerable small-island states, the climate change issue goes far beyond environmental destruction, serious though that is. It has become a matter of protecting and ensuring livelihoods and wider than that, trying to guarantee the future of humankind on Planet Earth.

The harmful carbon emissions which have led to global warming pose a direct threat to countries like ours in the form of unpredictable weather patterns, drought on one hand and flooding on the other, rising sea levels and coastal degradation. We had a first-hand experience last year on Christmas Eve, the effects of which are still being felt in our society.

Agriculture, a prime occupation in the Caribbean, tourism, infrastructure and the social sector are all on the front line. In turn, these have grave implications for our small and open economies and in particular on the livelihood of our people.

Regrettably, this over-arching threat is still not being acknowledged and treated as urgent by most of our citizens. While it is true that governance issues are important as well, we cannot afford to ignore the broader matters relating to changes in our environment which affect us directly.

For these reasons, we have to intensify our public environmental awareness campaigns, starting from the youngest ones. We have to inculcate in all our people the sense of collective responsibility which leads to appropriate action to preserve our environment and, where it is still possible, to repair the damage already caused.

Side by side with these efforts, we must work in concert with similarly-threatened small-island developing states to insist that those whose actions have led to global environmental degradation must provide the financial support necessary for funding actions at the national, regional and global levels to address the problems.

That is what the Climate Change Conference was all about. But whatever advances were made in Peru do not represent the end of the line. They can be reversed if we are all not consistent and must be backed up by our own modest efforts at home. The stakes are too high to even contemplate failure.

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