A call for Unity and Action - Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Madame President,

Allow me to extend to you the warmest greetings from the Government and people of Belize.

Belizeans know all too well the adverse impacts of climate change as we watch our coastlines vanish, our lands becoming more arid, our coral reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere, suffering from increasing bleaching events and ocean acidification, and our children threatened by the effects of climate change.

As a matter of necessity, urgency and for the benefit of humanity, Madame President, we must make significant progress on a number of salient and critical issues here in Durban:

The level of ambition particularly amongst all Annex I parties must be ratcheted upwards now, so that emissions peak no later than 2015 and decline thereafter in order to stay within the Copenhagen goal of limiting warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. More importantly,we need to maintain the possibility of moving toward a new goal below 1.5 degrees Celsius, consistent with recommendations of the scientific community.

A five year second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, with a single, common and legally-binding base year of 1990, must be decided now to avoid any legal gaps in the implementation of the Protocol.

Financing must, by legal mandate, come from public sources, but the private sector itself has a role to play in the global climate change response. Financing options must become more balanced between mitigation and adaptation, if small vulnerable countries like Belize are to become more resilient to climate change. In the case of REDD plus, we can entertain a basket of financing options; however, these options must be come on stream now.

Similarly, the Green Climate Fund must also become fully operational. The Adaptation Committee must also be constituted and activated. We also have an obligation, Madame President, to make sure that there are no financing gaps between the end of the fast start and long term financing periods.

Madame President, we must, without delay, establish a rules-based regime that is robust, well financed and that remains committed and truthful to the fundamental principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.We need more research to quantify the role that blue carbon can play in the global fight against climate change.

There is simply no other alternative than to act now; we cannot afford to wait any longer because our people are already suffering from the adverse effects of climate change. Waiting means that the international community will forgo its obligation to ensure that global warming remains below the critical threshold. Waiting will ensure that we will not have a second commitment period, rendering useless, years of accomplishments and progress. The Government and people of Belize cannot embrace or tolerate such a reality.

Madame President, my country has made significant progress in meeting the Convention’s commitments. Just this week, the Rio Bravo Carbon Sequestration Pilot Project in Belize, one of the first REDD projects in the world, was successfully validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard; over 26% of our national lands are protected; we have 70 percent forest cover; we have a national ban on bottom trawling; we have outlawed the sale and development of coastal shoals; we are one of the global leaders in increasing our no-take zones to 2% of our marine territory; and, we lead the region in obtaining more than 50 percent of our energy from renewable resources. Given our proven commitment in this area, we reiterate our willingness and readiness to host the headquarters of the renewable energy facility for all Small Island Developing States –the SIDS/DOCK.

As these accomplishments demonstrate, we have done and continue to do our part. However, we cannot continue to incur these opportunity costs unless we receive new, additional, timely and predictable climate change financing from the various mechanisms under the Convention.We cannot do it alone; we need the participation and cooperation from all stakeholders. In this regard, Belize draws the Parties attention to allow the Republic of China on Taiwan to meaningfully participate in the Convention, for we are convinced that every country has a responsibility to find solutions to climate change.

Finally, Madame President, I want to give you my highest assurances that both the Government and people of Belize are committed to the principles of the Convention. Our children are expecting much more from us and we must not disappoint them. Madame President, the time for half measures is too long gone; the impacts of climate change is accelerating right before our eyes, climate change is a reality. We must act now! We must act decisively and we must act boldly!

On behalf of the Government and people of Belize, Madame President, we want to thank you for yourkind and warm hospitality! Ngiyabonga! I thank you!

The Guardian