The Caribbean's Case for 1.5°C


"Since 2009, more than a hundred
Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries
and many others have been calling for
limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C
above pre-industrial levels to prevent the worst of climate change impacts.

The inclusion of a 1.5°C temperature limit in the 2015 Paris Agreement
was a major victory for vulnerable countries."

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27 october 2022

The Caribbean Climate Justice Alliance is calling for urgent and accelerated implementation to tackle the climate crisis and address the needs of Caribbean small islands developing states (SIDS) and other vulnerable countries.

As we look to the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Egypt in November, the Caribbean Climate Justice Alliance is calling for urgent and accelerated implementation to tackle the climate crisis and address the needs of Caribbean small islands developing states (SIDS) and other vulnerable countries.

The findings from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report[i] are clear and highlight the need for urgency and decisiveness. An increase of over 1 ̊C in global temperature above 1850-1900 levels has already been observed between 2010-2019 as greenhouse gas emissions from human activity drive widespread and unprecedented climatic changes. Further, under the five emission scenarios ranging from business-as-usual to a future with ambitious emission cuts, a dangerous increase of 2 ̊C or more above 1850-1900 levels is projected by 2100. The critical 1.5 ̊C goal of the Paris Agreement will be exceeded during the 21st century unless there are deep reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

Will this be a true landmark moment?

COP 26, the next Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been billed as a landmark moment in humanity’s struggle against the impending climate disaster. The disaster is at our doorstep, and this year it has been inside the flooded homes of hundreds of people in Germany and the United Kingdom, inside the burnt houses in Australia’s Blue Mountains, deep into the Californian sequoia forests that succumbed to flames, and has swept across the villages and farms devastated by fire in many countries of southern Europe. For small islands, the disasters have become far too common, with stronger hurricanes, floods, unusually long and extreme droughts, and sea-level rise threatening shorelines. 

gladding 1.5 2021For the powerful countries in the Global North, those that have the largest carbon footprint, the climate disaster is no longer the reality of distant islands and continents or that of a distant future. It is real, and it is now. It would be a shame if the G20 and the COP26 do not reaffirm the fundamental commitments of achieving a carbon-neutral world by mid-century and ensure that temperature increase is capped at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As stated by Prof. Michael Taylor of the University of the West Indies, “heading to 2°C is too much for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Even at 1.5°C, we are only guaranteed half a chance of a liveable future”.


Climate justice? Should we fight the injustice?


It is largely thanks to Mary Robinson and a few other visionaries around the world, including the Caribbean’s own Dessima Williams, that the linkages between social justice and climate change were first articulated. But nowadays it seems that almost every action, every position, every statement must come under the label of “climate justice”. This is potentially dangerous. It is potentially dangerous because we run the risk of losing the focus on social justice and of diluting the meaning of climate justice. Of course, it always sounds good to talk about justice, it sounds right and progressive; but one cannot fight for justice without fighting against injustice, and we can see many climate-related policies, programmes, projects and investments in the region that do little, if anything, for social justice.

So, where is the injustice? It is, first of all, in the fact that it is the poorest and the most vulnerable in our societies who are the most directly and severely affected by climate change. It is in the injustice of poverty and exclusion, including the exclusion of large sectors of society from decision-making. It is in the disproportionate impact of climate change, especially extreme climate events, on women and girls. It is in histories of neglect and racism that have marginalised communities and made them more vulnerable. It is also in the unequal power relations between large and rich countries and those in the Global South that suffer the most from climate change.

As we approach COP 26, and in the coming years, we should perhaps be a little more rigorous in our use and understanding of the concept of climate justice, and spend more time and more energy in understanding, denouncing and fighting climate-related injustice. We should avoid sticking the “climate justice” label on any statement, action or project, as if this were enough to give us good conscience and secure funding. 

"We hastily convened this press conference because COP25 is demonstrating very little ambition. #COP25 is a defining moment for us. It MUST trigger a decade of ambition." - Carlos Fuller, lead negotiatior

AOSIS Summary:

Full Recording of the AOSIS Ministerial Press Conference:

COP25 comes at a crucial year for ambition. After COP24 delivered the “rule book” for the Paris Agreement, now called the Katowice Climate Package, a number of important questions remain open which countries have to resolve at this COP 25 in order to create the conditions for a successful COP26 in 2020.

In spite of the strategic importance of this COP, expectations are being managed in the light of the prevailing challenging global context, created in large part by the imminent withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement

Yes, this year’s conference is very much about preparing for next year, as 2020 will be a key year for ambition: according to COP Decision 1/CP.21, countries must submit new or updated NDCs by 2020, “at least 9 to 12 months in advance of the relevant session of the Conference of the Parties”. Parties are also invited to submit long-term strategies by 2020. The level of ambition of the new submitted NDCs will determine whether the world will keep the average global temperature rise under 1.5°C. According to the latest Emissions Gap Report 2019 by UNEP, total greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent per year over the past decade, and even if all current commitments made under the Paris Agreement were implemented, global temperatures would rise by 3.2°C. According to current trends, countries are on track to extract 120% more oil, gas and coal in 2030, as shown by the UNEP Production Gap Report. Thus, COP25 has the important task of ensuring that the world gets on track to deliver a dramatic increase in its ambition under the Paris Agreement.


The Paris Agreement of 2015 was a significant milestone in global efforts to limit dangerous climate change, but it requires radical measures and strong ambition in order to achieve its goals. At present, Parties’ pledged actions (Nationally Determined Contributions) put the world on a pathway to a 3 or 4 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures. This is a far cry from the Paris Agreement goal to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. An increase in average global temperatures by 3 or 4 degrees would be catastrophic for the countries of the Caribbean region that are already experiencing deadly impacts of climate change with a 1 degree average increase.

An island concept encountered throughout the South Pacific archipelago, talanoa is a Fijian term referring to an inclusive, transparent dialogue based on a process of sharing stories, building empathy and reaching decisions for the collective good and, as such, relies on the pooling of ideas, skills and experience from all participants. This Caribbean process will be inspired by this concept.

There are important opportunities in 2018 for the Caribbean region to engage in these issues. At COP21, the Parties in the Climate Change Convention decided to convene a Facilitative Dialogue, later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue (see box, right), to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement and to inform the preparation of new and / or revised nationally-determined contributions. The Dialogue offers the opportunity for all actors to contribute to the discussions and negotiations that will put the Paris Agreement into action, and the Secretariat of the Convention is inviting inputs. The first deadline is 2 April 2018 for discussions in conjunction with the April/May session of the COP. A second round of consultations will take place later in the year.

We encourage concerned organisations in the Caribbean – government agencies, civil society and faith-based organisations, trade unions, community groups, scientific institutions, private sector groupings – to make their voices heard in this process.

Climate change is real, an indisputable fact that people across the globe have already experienced, given that extreme phenomena are now common, while their impact is greater.

image.jpeg  message9.P2.cop24 

Science and geophysical evidence not only point to this change, they stress it. In fact, the term climate change is no longer really pertinent, as this disruption in climatic patterns is already part of our lives and not some forecasted occurrence that might be avoided.

What we can do, what we are called to do, is to simultaneously alleviate or mitigate the impact of global warming to date and engage in concrete measures to contain any further heating of the atmosphere and the oceans.

This is all the more urgent as the impacts we are already experiencing result from an increase of roughly 1 degree above pre-industrial temperatures.

The 1.5° target is already a major concession

This means that the 1.5° target fixed by the Paris Agreement (2015) as a tentative optimal goal is already a major concession, for it entails significantly greater impacts, both in number and in severity, than now accepting as it does a further rise in temperature albeit limited to half a degree.

Hence, the 1.5° target does not mean an improvement on current conditions – it simply means containing the worsening of these conditions. But these will get worse, meaning that the impacts will be more devastating.

This is all the more certain as the 1.5° target refers to a planetary average, which masks regional disparities, whether in terms of differences in temperature levels or impacts due to the general warming.

In this context, the specific circumstances of small island developing states (SIDS) give rise to unique vulnerabilities, as evidenced in recent events and in the limitations they face in terms of response capacities, namely due to limited finances.

For us in the Caribbean, climate change signifies stronger hurricanes, more drought and resulting water shortages, a rise in sea level, heat waves, and warmer days and nights.

It is important to stress that, though the devastation wrought by hurricanes is more spectacular and hence more newsworthy, the impact of droughts is equally damaging in terms of food security, while an increase in heat waves and the number of hotter days and nights will affect – are already affecting – people’s health and wellbeing.