According to CANA St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris Friday accused developed countries of causing climate change saying their actions have resulted are now presenting a “clear and present danger to small and developing nations”.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, Harris said that small islan developing states (SIDS) like his are finding it difficult to attain the UN sustainable development goals (SDG) because governments’ “cannot focus on achieving such goals when the very existence of our countries and our peoples is constantly threatened.
“Let us be absolutely clear. Climate change is a product of developed nations’ push for economic growth and industrialisation. For far too long and with far-reaching consequences, rich countries have been allowed to emit greenhouse gases unimpeded.
“Yet the brunt of climate change is borne by developing nations. Small states such as St. Kitts and Nevis find themselves on the frontline of a war they did not start and do not want. This is unfair and unjust,” Harris told the international community.
He said people in developing countries will feel the impact first and worst because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels.
“So, we need and are owed support, solidarity and greater assistance. With increasing vociferousness, the leaders of the Caribbean and indeed of Small Island Developing States from every corner of our globe have raised the issue of climate change and the grave and present danger that it presents to all of us”.
Harris said the developing countries are forced to speak out “because of the existential vulnerabilities that we suffer in the face of this growing threat”.
He recalled that two years ago, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressed the United Nations after his island was battered by Hurricane Maria.
“Yesterday Dominica; Today the Bahamas. Every hit is more devastating than that which preceded it! Hurricane Maria passed over Dominica with extreme ferocity, killed 65 persons and wiped out 200 percent of GDP. Hurricane Dorian sat over part of the Bahamas chain and unleashed Armageddon with still unknown dead and incalculable destruction. We extend deepest sympathy to our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas,” Harris said, appealing to the international community to provide tangible expressions of solidarity and support to the Bahamas.
But he noted that with every disaster comes a crisis of conscience in the international community that results in pledges and promises but few are fulfilled.
Harris said he was joining his Caribbean colleague and St. Lucia Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, in seeking the establishment of a SIDS Foundation for climate adaptation and mitigation.
“We are tired of those who posture as champions of our cause but substantially are promoters of their own conceit. We are tired of the agencies whose brokerage of climate funds is more centered on implementation fees than on adaptation impact.
“Rebuilding needs to start as soon as the disasters have passed, and we require a quicker process, which is sensitive to recovery. We are tired, Mr. President, of empty promises.Now is the time for us to take hold of our own destiny. We are almost out of time, short of options and lost for patience.”
Prime Minister Harris said that the scientific community has further reinforced the Caribbean’s call for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius if efforts at stabilising the global climate are to be successful.
“Exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius would mean ever increasing climate risks: extreme weather, sea level rise, increased poverty and a threat to hundreds of millions of lives. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius for SIDS is not optional. It is a matter of our collective survival.”.
In his address, Harris followed his Jamaican counterpart, Andrew Holness and called for concessionary financing for Caribbean countries to meet their socio-economic goals.
“The unfair practice of categorizing countries based on their per capita GDP (gross domestic product) and denying their access to concessionary funding continues to pose a major challenge to our quest to achieve the sustainable development goals and our economic development,” Harris said, adding ‘we continue to demand that consideration be given to our vulnerability to internal and external shocks”.
He said a similar calls was being made regarding the protection of the oceans, saying “in the face of global warming, we need a blue strategy to preserve and protect what is so important to our food security, the livelihoods of our fisher folks, our economic growth and development.
“There is huge untapped economic potential in our seas, and this needs to be protected and nurtured.
Put simply, we need to protect the Ocean. I call on the developed countries of the UN to offer their support to smaller countries so that together we can protect and nurture our planet.”