PM Drew at Global Sustainability Island Summit: Partnership, solidarity key in the fight against climate change

“Islands globally are facing a daunting crisis that we will never survive without urgent action. Whether we classify our islands as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Large Ocean States, Coastal Nations, Climate Vulnerable Island States or simply as islands, our plight is similar, our trajectories, while dissimilar, seem to have the same end:  

  • if the world does not limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above    pre-industrial levels, 

  • if we do not adjust unsustainable linear plastic pollution,  

  • if we do not adjust our consumption traits,  

  • if we do not demand changes in climate finance and the international financial architecture then our islands are doomed to suffer.”

This was the sobering message delivered by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew as he delivered the feature address this morning at the launch of the Global Sustainability Island Summit in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

His message, however, had a silver lining as the prime minister identified key areas which could offer solutions to the threat the climate crisis poses to island nations. Prime Minister Drew identified these as recognising the importance of “win – win” geostrategic partnerships; demanding climate finance that supports the most vulnerable and  taking bold action to disrupt consumption and industrial manufacturing norms. The fourth he identified was the importance of developing sustainable island states.

“As we head to Antigua and Barbuda for the 4th Global Conference of Small Island Developing States, we are excited by the momentum provided by this conference and by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea’s opinion that  greenhouse gasses are a form of marine pollution.  Prince Edward Island and the Caribbean are shareholders of the Atlantic Ocean, and we view Canada’s geostrategic partnership as critical.  Whatever enters the sea in PEI may well wash up on the shores of my beloved federation. I therefore thank Canada once again for its leadership in addressing plastic pollution and the Global Biodiversity Conservation Framework Fund” said Dr. Drew.   

“Our contributions to climate change are negligible and our call for action demands that historical responsibility is the greatest factor in action.   We believe in free and open trade to drive green growth for the International Financial Architecture has long closed its door to small island states.  That is why we join with my sister the Prime Minister of Barbados in calling for the Bridgetown Initiative to be implemented across the IFIs to level the playing field to facilitate a just transition,” he noted.

The prime minister also addressed what he described as “the island paradox” which he said creates unique challenges for SIDS.

“We are not rich enough, nor are we poor enough to fund our green transition. We have been left in development purgatory to swim against the tide of injustice for far too long. This is why we as an island community have been active at the UN in seeking an advisory opinion on the climate crisis. The international financial architecture is neocolonial and in urgent need of restructuring and reform. The survival of the islands is directly linked to an international financial system which allows for fair, just and more reliable access to urgent climate finance and climate crisis response grant funding.  This is why we reiterate here among our partners who find themselves in the councils of the G7, the G20, the OECD and in the corridors of power, to work with us to demand and drive change in global finance” said Prime Minister Drew.

“St. Kitts and Nevis is locked out of climate and concessional financing offered by IFIs because we dared to lift our citizens out of poverty.  The shackles that have been put on SIDS need to be removed so that we might not only survive but indeed thrive. The Bridgetown Initiative coupled with the adoption and implementation of the Muti-Dimensional Vulnerability Index have the potential for fiscal and monetary  space,” he continued, noting that the federation is entering the volatile hurricane season which serves as an annual reminder of the fragility of SIDS.

Prime Minister Drew highlighted the “unfortunate linear cycles of production and consumption”  which have created untenable situations for the Caribbean and SIDS globally. 

According to Dr. Drew, “The Caribbean’s contribution to warming global temperatures remains negligible, yet we are stuck on the fossil fuel consumption cycle which leaves us vulnerable. Even if we transition the entire Caribbean to renewables, the real and meaningful change required to prevent our oceans from rising, save our corals from bleaching or fish stock from migrating is the global commitment to phase out fossil fuels.  

“Therefore, the only change that will protect island nations is bold disruptive change to unfair global financial and production norms.  

“When we convene our declarations must demonstrate that islands are at the edge of disappearing, where survival demands drastic global shifts towards cleaner energy, environmentally sensitive consumption and circular economies.”

St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere, but Dr. Drew offered up his administration’s forward thinking strategy to transform the federation into a Sustainable Island State as a model other nations can follow.

“The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis under my leadership presented its vision to transform to a Sustainable Island State by 2040.  Our Sustainable Island State Agenda is twinned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as our accelerator model. Transformation is premised on digital transformation and climate resilience to boost the self-sufficiency and survivability of our people” he said.   

“Saving the planet is our ultimate goal because it is for the benefit of every generation of Kittitians and Nevisians. The non-economic losses of climate change are very real to islanders,” Dr. Drew concluded.

Prime Minister Drew was accompanied to the Global Sustainability Island Summit by the Minister of Environment, Dr. Joyelle Clarke.

Dr. Clarke participated in a panel discussion which emphasised the critical leadership role island states play in climate action.

During that discussion, Dr. Clarke noted that the adaptations that are forced upon people and their communities as a result of climate change are not abstract concepts without real consequences. She noted that the reality of this is driven home particularly during the hurricane season, when beaches erode, and as temperatures continue to rise.

“Climate change affects communities,” said Clarke, “and the government [of St. Kitts and Nevis] is committed to protecting people.

The other members of PrimeMinister Drew’s delegation to the 21st – 23rd May summit are Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Naeemah Hazelle; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Colincia Levine; High Commissioner of St. Kitts and Nevis to Canada, H. E. Samuel Berridge and Minister Counselor, High Commission to Canada, Eustace Wallace.

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