Sounds of Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley filled the air at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) pavilion at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, as Caribbean leaders exchanged ideas.
Meanwhile, in the hallowed plenary hall, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley sets the tone for climate justice, an area of pivotal importance for Caribbean nations at this COP.
»We know what it is to remove slavery from our civilisation, to find a vaccine within two years for a pandemic, to put a man on the moon, but when it came to the climate crisis, we needed to understand why we were not moving any further,«she stated. Reminding the participants that we have a »collective capacity to transform«.
Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Chairperson for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), urged the island leaders to devise a strategy to secure agreements at COP27. It could therefore be argued that Caribbean leaders are doing a good job in advocating for climate action on the international stage.
However, thousands of miles away in Jamaica, many young people in the streets of Kingston and St. Andrew are either unaware of what is happening at the climate change conference or simply have other things to worry about. In fact, one university student we spoke to asked: »What is COP?«
Given the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, soaring crime rates and rapidly falling wages many people do not see climate change as one of their biggest concerns.
At the same, there are several non-governmental organisations, clubs and youth groups in Jamaica, and the Caribbean at large pushing the climate agenda.
A GeoPoll study in June 2022 confirmed that most Caribbean people are not talking about climate change in their communities. Thirteen countries, including Jamaica and Barbados, were polled. The data showed that more than half of the respondents (53 per cent) said they rarely or never discuss climate change with their family or friends. The study also showed that a greater percentage of older respondents report discussing climate change than younger respondents.
For Chief Executive Officer at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Dr Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie it is clear that many people in the Caribbean need to be more aware of climate change.
She told us: »It is a difficult one for people to really and truly relate to climate change sometimes. I am not sure why. It is so cross-cutting. But I think there needs to be more discussion, more education. Unfortunately, we tend to limit climate change discussions to COP season.«
Rodriquez-Moodie said the climate change conversation should be embedded in people’s lives.
»Within every ministry, within every government organisation…everybody needs to understand the projects that are being done and how they will be impacted by climate change.«
According to Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA) Racquel Moses, it is time for all Caribbean countries to put climate action at the top of their agenda.
»All of the issues that we are having, with Covid-19, with economic recovery, with economic growth, with debt, will be exacerbated by the climate crisis. We can’t afford to just focus on short term issues,« Moses said.
On the other hand, Chief Executive Officer of Island Innovation, a full-service marketing and public relations agency which offers unique insights into islands and sustainability, James Ellsmore believes the Caribbean has not been passive on issues surrounding climate change.
In fact, he stressed that the climate conversation has been gaining traction in the region.
»Prime Minister Mottley has been an incredible voice, not only for Barbados, but the Caribbean region. I mean, people who may not even be aware of the politics of the region are looking up to what she has been saying over the last few days and are taking notice. And I think there is no better ambassador for the region.«
While commending other Caribbean leaders, Ellsmore stressed that there are several initiatives taking place across the region which show that Caribbean people are not waiting for action.
Kelesha Williams is an award-winning journalist in Jamaica, with a passion for people and telling compelling stories. Her work is focused on social change, the environment, climate change, and rural development. She is a lover of all things nature, and believes to be a truth-seeker destined to hold power to account. She is focusing on how Jamaica is vulnerable to the worst effects of climate change due to its developing economy and geographical location. The island nation is at increased risk to devastating natural disasters, like hurricanes and tropical storms