The best way for small island states such as those in the Caribbean to combat the onset and impact of climate change is by forging effective alliances: with each other, and with other larger nations.
That was the message Canadian MP Mr. Gary Goodyear had for delegates at the recent regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting held in Grand Cayman.
Mr. Goodyear was at the conference to outline the action the recently-elected Canadian government is taking to combat global warming.
BVI presenter Inez Archibald explained that in the Caribbean, some established threats of global warming are to the health of coral reefs, rising hurricane rates, and rising sea levels, which may rise by 7.87 inches by 2025.
‘If Bush refuses Kyoto, and China continues its aggressive growth by building one coal plant a week Caribbean nations are at the collective mercy of the larger nations,’ she said.
Mr. Goodyear provided a context in which to frame the issue by looking at the past failings and future possibilities his country has experienced in the global warming arena.
‘While Canada only contributes two per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, we owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to address this global problem,’ he said.
‘Frankly, up to now, our country has been engaged in a lot of big talk but very little, if any, action,’ he said.
While the previous government had committed to meeting the Kyoto protocol by reducing its emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels beginning in 2008, Mr. Goodyear said in fact the then-government maintained policies that pushed emissions in the other direction.
‘In fact, when our government came to office last year, Canada’s emissions were 33 per cent above the target and rising. Not down 6 per cent, up: between 1993 and 2006, greenhouse gas emissions went up 170 mega tonnes,’ he said.
Mr. Goodyear said the new government has come up with a plan to achieve a 60 per cent to 70 per cent reduction of 2006 emissions by 2050, a goal mirroring that of the European Union’s. The plan will focus on curbing emissions not only through cutbacks but through intensive investment in new technologies.
However, the country will have to scrap its previous Kyoto commitments due to the unrealistic targets the agreement would require meeting in the short term.
Mr. Goodyear said elements of Canada’s plan could work for many countries in the world – including some of the large emitters like China, the USA and India that did not accept targets under the Kyoto protocol.
‘Clearly, if we really want to stop climate change, all the big emitters need to step up to the plate and must accept real targets, but all peoples and countries of the world as well must join this fight,’ he said.
Canada’s tactics include the banning of incandescent light bulbs, which is anticipated to save 6 mega tonnes of carbon emissions, and the introduction of clean coal burning technology, gasification processing for trash, solar, wind, wave and geothermal energies, even using corn to fuel cars and buses.
‘The approach we have chosen, basing emissions reduction targets on units of production in the short run, allows growing and developing economies to engage in significant greenhouse gas reductions without putting themselves at immediate risk of economic collapse.’
In showing how small emitters like Canada can be leaders through example, Mr. Goodyear encouraged Cayman and other Caribbean nations to join with Canada in raising the climate change issue on the global stage.
Challenged by a representative from Granada who said delegations from small island nations are being ignored at the UN, Mr. Goodyear urged persistence and patience.
‘A contribution by Caribbean nations will actually accomplish things, especially if you try joining with Canada and other countries to put pressure on the US and China,’ said Mr. Goodyear.
‘You need to keep the pressure up and keep writing to the UN and lead by example – to shame them into action.’
Regional action is already taking place.
Cuba has donated compact fluorescent light bulbs to Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica to aid them in cutting emissions, while Bermuda’s public ferry programme is taking polluting cars off its roads.
Mr. Goodyear also noted the importance of emphasising the health and environmental effects of the smog and pollution that result from carbon emissions.
‘I find it remarkable, for example, that the cruise industry has not been taken to task about emissions,’ said Mr. Goodyear.
One tangible outcome of the CPA conference’s climate change session is already set to take place: Cayman Speaker of the House Mrs. Edna Moyle gained approval for her proposal that the group select a representative to present a paper on the region’s climate change concerns at the upcoming Commonwealth Parliamentary Association plenary conference in New Delhi this September.