The Caribbean has a lot at stake as world leaders and technical experts meet for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). While the urgency of climate action is dire across the world, the livelihood of the Caribbean region continues to be threatened by global warming.
Professor Michael Taylor, Climate Scientist at The University of the West Indies, is Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology and co-leads the Climate Studies Group at Mona. Over the past few months, he and Professor Tannecia Stephenson, who is Head of the Department of Physics and co-lead for the CSGM, have been the lead technical experts among a CARICOM team preparing the key issues and positions that the 15-member grouping will highlight at the upcoming COP26. Professor Stephenson will also present on Small Island Science at the COP26 Science Pavilion Event being organised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In a recent presentation to the CARICOM contingent, entitled ‘Countdown to Zero’, Professor Taylor described COP26 as a “politically significant moment.” He quoted the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which states that “global warming of 1.5°C and two degrees Celsius will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades”. He cautioned that heading to 2°C was too much for Small Island Developing States as the Caribbean, noting that even at 1.5°C, “we are only guaranteed half a chance of a liveable future.”
UWI Environmental Scientist, Dr Hugh Sealy will serve as the technical lead of the Barbados delegation. He is also the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), charged with coordinating AOSIS positions on matters related to raising the mitigation ambition of all countries to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, and a co-facilitator of the negotiations under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement - one of the most complex concepts of the global accord that could help the world avoid dangerous levels of global warming or let countries off the hook from making meaningful emissions cuts. How to implement Article 6 is one of the outstanding issues to be resolved since the Paris Agreement was established in 2015. Dr Sealy will have a direct responsibility to attempt to bring all of the parties to a consensus on how to advance it.
Leading UWI scientists Professor John Agard as Dr Donovan Campbell will also be participating.
Providing the best scientific research to tackle climate change has long been a priority for the UWI; the regional university’s scientists have been sounding the alarm for almost five decades.
According to Dr Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs at the UWI: “Our region is on the frontline and faces disproportionate levels of vulnerability and risk, but we cannot solve the climate crisis alone. What is urgently needed is moral and decisive leadership, increased financing for small island developing states and, demonstrated collective action.” she said.