In the main, the meeting discussed, inter alia, tackling climate change; access to climate financing; and European Union support for the 1.5°C call by Caribbean nations ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) negotiations.
Prime Minister and Chairman of the OECS Authority, The Rt. Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell, heartily welcomed Executive Vice President Timmermans, noting that this important meeting, ahead of the COP26, underscores the EU’s commitment to being partners in building climate action and resilience in the Caribbean region.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Mitchell highlighted the widespread devastation the region is experiencing from climate impacts and natural disasters, increasingly exacerbated by climate change. He stated,
“We are suffering acutely. The window of opportunity for demonstrating and delivering on 1.5°C aligned action is rapidly closing. With warming increasing, there’s a growing and urgent need for us to adapt and to address loss and damage with increased focus and vastly scaled-up financial resources.”
The OECS Chairman also welcomed the additional support the EU committed to the climate efforts, stating:
“The EU, having already fulfilled its commitment to its share in the goal of US $100 billion in climate financing, has now proposed an additional 4 billion Euros in climate finance to support low-income and climate vulnerable countries through to 2027.”
Executive Vice President Timmermans thanked OECS Heads of Government for the opportunity to have open dialogue and acknowledged the factors at stake for the Caribbean in the upcoming COP26, stating that "any Glasgow outcome should reflect the deep concern with the current state of the climate system and highlight the messages coming from the latest IPCC report."
"If we act according to the science, keeping the 1.5 degrees goal within reach, while lessening the impacts of climate change, it can still be done,” he shared.
Timmermans further highlighted the need for increased resources to combat climate change and recommended regular dialogue between the EU and the OECS with an aim to increase cooperation and keep abreast of strides and challenges on both sides.
Heads of Governments expressed their appreciation to EVP Frank Timmermans for the support provided by the EU to date and welcomed the recommendations for continued dialogue as the region seeks to increase its ambitions on climate change.
Heads raised concerns regarding the tangible returns of COP negotiations, noting the significant economic sacrifice from SIDS to ensure representation and a share of the voice at the yearly meeting of decision makers.
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, further outlined the many bureaucratic challenges that Caribbean nations face when attempting to access financing dedicated to assisting nations most affected by climate change. The protracted procurement processes, Prime Minister Skerrit noted, “would take more than a dozen hurricane seasons before you can access these funds.”
The Dominican leader called on the European Union to speak more forcefully to world leaders and the G7, on behalf of Caribbean states, to achieve decisive action.
“The reality is, we cannot wait for another COP to take action. This is 26, and we are in this as a matter of survival,” Prime Minister Skerrit lamented.
“It's about survival of our people and survival of our countries, because we are living this on a daily basis. There's no more hurricane season in the Caribbean islands. The entire 365 days, we live at the mercy of climate change and the impacts of climate change. The time really has passed for action.”
Colleague Heads of Governments fully endorsed the calls for action by Prime Minister Skerrit and reiterated the points raised in the contexts of their respective island nations.
Executive Vice President Timmermans thanked Heads for their frank contributions and assured The Authority that he would do all in his power to move the agenda of the OECS forward. He apprised the Meeting that the projected 100 billion in climate financing will be achieved in 2023, or earlier, and recommended working with Heads over the next few weeks to arrive at a clear position on how the monies could be used towards climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Timmermans further recognised that adaptation measures required by the region will be considerable and acknowledged that conditions of support need to be defined so that they are not exclusively based on GDP per capita.
With regards to the length and complexity of finance access procedures, Ambassador of the EU to Barbados and the OECS, Her Excellency Malgorzata Wasilewska, noted the concerns of Member States and committed to begin working with the OECS Commission and her counterparts in Brussels towards solutions for these challenges as a matter of priority.
On the wider environmental front, challenges such as the destructive impact of the Sargassum seaweed on coastlines, coral and marine life in the Caribbean were also noted. While the focus of the meeting was specifically on climate change, recognition was given of the need to broaden future dialogue to wider Caribbean-OECS concerns related to economic, trade and investment relations with the European Union.
OECS Heads of Governments and the EU Delegation agreed to a standing mechanism for continued dialogue moving forward.