‘Double jeopardy’

The growing regional and international eminence on the world’s stage by Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley was evident last week when she delivered what The Guardian described as a “blistering attack” on industrialised nations for failing developing and poor nations on the climate crisis.

Mottley’s statements critical of the industrialised world were made during her address at the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, now underway at Sharm el Sheikh, The City of Peace, in Egypt, and which ends on Friday.

As The Guardian reported, Mottley said that “if we are to rise to the occasion, and to play our part to stop the tragic loss of lives …and the impact on livelihoods that we are feeling across our countries, then there needs to be a new deal”.

It is evident from climate turbulences in recent times that our Caribbean nations are being battered more and more by sudden and adverse weather anomalies, storms, and in some instances, extremely powerful and destructive hurricanes.

It is also a fact that Caribbean nations will continue to be hit hard with climate crisis fallout if COP27 does not end on Friday with mitigating measures, part of which constitute, in Mottley’s words, “a new deal”.

It means, among other things, that financing for mitigation against the effects of climate change is becoming more and more critical as our Caribbean nations deal with damage and economic losses from the unfolding, global crisis.

For example, in the past month alone, Trinidad and Tobago has seen recurring patterns of severely inclement weather that have led to nationwide flooding, landslips that have impacted, or destroyed private property such as buildings, and the erosion of national infrastructure such as roadways and bridges that have been damaged or washed away. There have also been a tragic loss of lives.

With increasing and deleterious shifting in weather patterns, there is no way to predict what disasters Caribbean nations would face next. However, what is known is Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana have both experienced, and will continue to deal with severe rainfall patterns, and along with these deluges, chronic nationwide flooding.

As Mottley noted during her blistering address at COP27 last week, there is need for bigger, international mitigation funding if the Caribbean region is to recover quickly from disasters such as widespread flooding without having to undergo major economic setbacks.

As she noted, the high carbon emissions from the developed world came at the expense of poor nations in times past. And as she declared, it was such that now these persistently impoverished nations are being forced to pay the price once again, this time as victims of climate breakdown, which they did not cause.

Said Mottley: “We were the ones whose blood, sweat, and tears financed the Industrial Revolution. Are we now to face double jeopardy by having to pay the cost as a result of those greenhouse gases from the Industrial Revolution? That is fundamentally unfair.”

Mottley was speaking to the narrative on climate justice; that poor nations must now face another layer of injustice, namely, fallout from climate change due to extreme weather, and then recovery that exacerbates what has always been their historical, existential, and persistent poverty.

Meanwhile, rich countries continue to fail in keeping their promises to cut emissions, and to not provide finance to assist poor nations that are “unfairly” experiencing more and more direct hits from climate breakdown.

In what was a dire warning to the powers-that-be, Mottley predicted a billion climate refugees emerging globally by the middle of the century if governments continue to talk more, and act less, on climate change.

“We need to have a different approach to allow grant-funded reconstruction grants going forward in those countries that suffer from disaster. Unless that happens, we are going to see an increase in climate refugees,” Mottley warned.