KIGALI, Rwanda – 24th June 2022……..Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made a call for climate justice as part of a high-level panel at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Kigali, Rwanda. The panel addressed the topic “Keeping 1.5 Alive: The Glasgow Climate Pact and Building Momentum Towards COP27”.
Speaking alongside Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and COP26 President Alok Sharma MP, the Prime Minister shared his perspectives on the changes needed to ensure access to climate finance for climate vulnerable countries. Noting the unique vulnerabilities and absence of resilience of microstates like Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Browne called for the implementation of polluter pays policies including a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies and a redirection of fossil fuel subsidies to support climate action and just transition in climate vulnerable countries.
“There is something vulgar about oil companies profiting from what is essentially dirty money derived from pollution at a time when the world is reeling from the effects of the pandemic”. The Prime Minister noted the egregious anomaly of fossil fuel investments for example in 2018 exceeding USD988 billion with only USD288 billion in renewable energy investment and a miserly USD62 billion provided for climate finance.
Citing the recent example of countries like Dominica which saw over 200% of its GDP wiped out by a single climatic event and Antigua and Barbuda’s experience with Hurricane Irma decimating Barbuda in 2017, the Prime Minister spoke about the importance of devising bespoke instruments that do not increase the debt burden of these already vulnerable countries and which are channelled through regional development banks and bilaterally to allow rapid disbursement and the development of homegrown solutions. These climatic catastrophes have been amplified by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine which has led to an increase in global fuel prices and an attendant increase in the cost of goods and services, the Prime Minister pointed out.
The Prime Minister also called for genuine and urgent action to implement the multidimensional development indices being proposed by the United Nations and the Commonwealth. These indices include a recognition of the unique structural challenges and vulnerabilities of SIDS that are not captured through the use of GDP per capita as a measure of economic strength. “The current formulation unfairly and harmfully excludes SIDS from accessing concessionary financing and even barred SIDS classified as middle and high income from COVID-19 relief measures,” he said.
Prime Minister Browne further developed these themes on a second high level panel chaired by Lord Marland at the Commonwealth Business Forum and alongside his colleague, Prime Minister Philip Davis of The Bahamas. On that panel the Prime Ministers addressed the topic of “Financing the Blue-Green Growth for Sustainable Islands”.
In addition, Prime Minister Browne also addressed these issues in separate bilateral meetings held with COP26 President Alok Sharma and Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund Yannick Glemarec.
Commonwealth Heads are expected to adopt the “Living Lands Charter” which sets out actions to address climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss. Secretary-General Scotland has described this charter as “a testament to our commitment. It helps to encapsulate our combined effort to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).”
The Prime Minister’s CHOGM calendar of meetings continue today with planned bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada and HRH The Prince of Wales. The decision on the next Secretary-General of the Commonwealth will also be made with the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland QC facing a challenge from Jamaica’s Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith and Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli of Tuvalu.