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St. Kitts and Nevis join world leaders in Paris at critical Climate Change Conference

DAVID DOWYLE

Prime Minister had hardly put his foot on French soil on Monday morning this week when he was whisked-away at haste to join some 154 heads of state and governments to conclude a historically-important climate change agreement, which started in Paris on 30 November.

The 2015 Climate Change Conference, known as COP21, attracted over 150 world leaders including Barack Obama of the USA, Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, Xi Jinping of China, and David Cameron of the UK, on the opening day of a two-day Paris event  due to produce the first global climate accord in over 20 years.  Expectations of an agreement committing wealthy nations to cut their emissions still remain uncertain.

The 2015 Climate Change Conference, known as COP21, attracted over 150 world leaders including Barack Obama of the USA, Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, Xi Jinping of China, and David Cameron on the opening day of a two-day Paris event  due to produce the firs global climate accord in over 20 years.  Expectations of an agreement committing wealthy nations to cut their emissions still remain uncertain.

Strong and robust messages were delivered by the world leaders for more tangible fossil fuel reductions and accelerated spending on alternative energy.  Said French President, Francois Holland in his opening speech, at the Paris climate summit, the ‘future of planet at stake’, but so are youth.  The dual vulnerability of a damaged earth due to the adverse effects of climate change and the dangerous legacy for future generations, especially youth, was a recurrent theme by multiple world leaders in their speeches. The plight of small island states was the second most frequent reference from some of the developed nations, notably India and the USA.

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The underlining message at COP21 that time was running out to cut carbon emissions and provide concomitant assistance for small island developing states in their monumental task of adaptation and mitigation, had some resonance for Prime Minister Harris. “the dangers of Climate Change are real and present. The threat is existential.  Mr. President, greenhouse gas emissions from small island states like St. Kitts and Nevis are negligible. Yet our small island states continue to be adversely and disproportionately affected by the impacts of Climate Change. Nonetheless, as responsible global citizens, we in St. Kitts and Nevis are already acting locally to reduce our national carbon footprint even further”.

Prime Minister Harris’ peers from the Caribbean region were of the same consensus and took note of the radical change in the public statements from leading world leaders in support of SIDS and climate change challenges.

A number of SIDS leaders also called for prompt action by neighboring countries in the face of increased sea level rises. Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, a low-lying, Pacific island state and long-standing advocate on climate change, stated that   “It’s so heartening to hear that Fiji has undertaken to accommodate our people of Kiribati in the event that climate change renders our homes uninhabitable”.

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, stated that he had committed to increase his country’s financial contribution of international climate finance by 1.5 times and called for a long term goal and review process to help boost the ambition of meeting the 2 degree warming goal. In addition, Japan will be participating in the new energy and environment innovation strategy to help promote the development and diffusion of new low carbon technologies.

Prime Minister Harris, who delivered his national intervention at the end of the first day, was impressed by the determination of the majority of world leaders to act now.

The Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris was accompanied by Hon. Ian Liburd, Minister of Transport and Energy and Dr. David P. Doyle, Ambassador or St. Kitts and Nevis to UNESCO, and Mr Bjorn Hazel, foreign affairs officer. The Prime Minister while in Paris to 2 December will conduct a number of bilateral meetings with French ministers, the OECD and French infrastructure investors.

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