by Gemma Handy
From rising sea levels to calamitous storms and devastating droughts, the Caribbean has often been described as the world’s most vulnerable sub-region to climate change.
Newly installed US Joe Biden is on a crusade to make America ‘green’ again – and his pledges to tackle greenhouse gases, impose curbs on the US oil industry, and heighten protection for endangered species have been welcomed by environmentalists far and wide.
Yesterday – hours after being sworn into the top seat – the 78-year-old was poised to rejoin the Paris Agreement which seeks to reduce global warming. It’s just one of dozens of steps aimed at unravelling his predecessor Donald Trump’s disastrous environmental policies.
And all of that could reap dividends for countries across the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda.
“We now actually have a fighting chance to tackle climate change,” New York-based Antiguan Frances Fuller, of non-profit climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics, told Observer.
“The impacts of climate change on the region are going to be devastating without global action.”
Fuller said a second term for Trump would have led to “too much inertia”, preventing significant changes needed to avoid “horrendous impacts” manifested in floods and droughts, among other things.
“Biden has the most progressive agenda on climate change that any presidential candidate has ever had,” Fuller continued.
“He’s looking at decarbonising the electricity sector by 2035, he’s looking at net-zero emissions from the US by 2050, and fossil fuel subsidies … these are huge signals to the international community.”
Fuller’s brother – environmentalist activist Eli Fuller – also welcomed the arrival of Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who has Jamaican roots, to the helm of US politics.
“Their long-term agenda is on climate change adaptation of the economy and that will help the world – and of course the most vulnerable places like Antigua who get faced with destruction of reefs because of ocean acidification and sea water rising because of ice melt-offs,” he explained.
“Overall this is a turning point for our society and for our people. It’s something that’s really important and can only be positive,” he said.
“Change towards more sensible management of our environments has to happen with us, because if we don’t do it, the world will be without us,” Fuller warned.
The Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty – came into force in November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Months after assuming the presidency in 2017, Trump controversially announced the US would cease to participate, claiming the accord “undermined” the US economy.
In addition to reentering it – something which will take 30 days to effect – Biden was yesterday also expected to revoke a permit that Trump granted to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic.
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