The 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Debate wrapped on Monday night with expressions of anger from Caribbean leaders over the continuing failure of the world assembly to move decisively towards a meaningful and legally binding climate change treaty.
Led by St.Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ralph Gonsalves, Caribbean leaders bemoaned the lack of urgency by the world body to confront the existential challenges posed by the weather phenomenon.
“Entire nations that currently occupy this Assembly, whose representatives sit among us as friends and equals, may simply cease to exist as a result of our inaction and political cowardice,” the St. Vincent leader warned.
Stuck in the midst of a “a life-and-death struggle” against the impending effects of climate change, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, whose countries are among some of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable, have warned the global community that apathy about the health of the planet and “political cowardice” about reaching a post-Kyoto climate deal have left regional states one Category 2 hurricane away from economic and social collapse.
“Other nations, including my own, are already victims of increasingly intense and frequent storms, hurricanes and weather events,” Gonsalves pointed out. “These changes threaten not only our way of life, but risk reversing our recent developmental progress.”
The St.Vincent prime minister noted that: “The islands of our planet are at war against climate change, warming temperatures and rising seas. This war is not a future event, it is a present-day and ongoing battle. As all of you in this Assembly are aware, it is a war that we are currently losing.”
Mr. Gonsalves warned that “the survival of our islands is at stake, and the responsibility for immediate change lies undisputedly with those whose reckless pollution over generations has led us to the brink of catastrophe.”
In a different time and context, he said, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspired his people and the world to “fight on the seas and oceans [and] defend our island, whatever the cost may be.”
“Today, we shall fight the rising seas and encroaching oceans and defend our islands’ right to exist at any cost,” the Vincentian leader cautioned and called on all nations to join in “the fight … for this is a war that can still be won.”
Mr. Gonsalves said negotiations to arrest climate change are “not merely some arcane academic or diplomatic pursuit, and cannot be treated as any interminable, run-of-the-mill United Nations process.
“Let us set aside narrow, short-term interests and act as we are capable of acting: for the benefit and protection of all mankind,” Gonsalves urged.