By Robert A. Emmanuel
For decades, small island developing states have borne the brunt of the worst effects of climate change predominantly caused by the world’s larger nations.
At the closing of this year’s United Nations climate conference in Egypt, small island states finally accomplished their biggest win to date for the people and nations most at risk.
Yesterday, at the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27), a draft agreement was published announcing compensation funding for loss and damage—a key proposal of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Antigua and Barbuda has served as AOSIS chair since 2021, taking over from Belize.
AOSIS Chair and Environment Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph released a statement from the event in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday, calling the agreement “a mission 30 years in the making” and “a win for our entire world”.
The statement noted that the negotiators “exhausted all of our efforts here at COP27 to bring home the climate action commitments our vulnerable people desperately need”.
It added that, “today, the international community has restored global faith in this critical process that is dedicated to ensuring no one is left behind.
“We have shown those who have felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve.”
However, Minister Joseph warned that more work was still to be done and countries must “work even harder to hold firm to the 1.5C warming limit, to operationalise the loss and damage fund, and continue to create a world that is safe, fair, and equitable for all”.
Prior to the announced agreement, Minister Joseph said that any failure to agree on the loss and damage fund would have been “a failure for the world” as “three quarters of humanity [were] relying on a favourable outcome at COP27”.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has also been a leading voice on the issue, calling for oil companies to pay a global carbon tax on their profits into a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries.
During his speech at the conference, the Prime Minister chided international governments and corporations for delivering grand statements with lofty commitments and honouring very little.
AOSIS, in its closing statement at the conference, said parties must begin to work “constructively to design and operationalise this fund over the next 12 months”, with the election of transitional committee members and a clear mandate to execute their role. Antigua and Barbuda is no stranger to natural disasters reportedly linked to climate change. September marked five years since Barbuda was devastated by category five Hurricane Irma.