December 16, 2009

Prime Minister Dear Barrow this morning addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mr. Barrow’s statement to the conference followed his counterpart from St. Lucia and both leaders that even though Belize and St. Lucia are by no means major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, we have not been without massive impacts already from climate change.

Prime Minster Dean Barrow

"As a developing country and low lying coastal nation Belize is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and is now classified as one of the top ten most affected countries. In the past eleven years Belize has suffered devastation from six major hurricanes; Mitch, Keith, Iris, Chantal and Arthur. Fueled by high sea surface temperatures it destroyed our crops, battered our choral reef, flooded our streets, washed away our bridges, ruined our tourism infrastructure and ran us out of our homes. Those reefs, jewels in our environmental crown have also been turned into skeletons by massive choral bleaching events in 1995, 1998, 2005, 2008 and 2009. Those reefs, resplendent and life-giving, internationally famous are in too many spots now nothing more than graveyards. In Belize then, global warming has already eroded our major economic sectors; agriculture, fisheries and tourism and cause irreparable damage to our ecology."

The prime minister said hurricanes alone have caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage and that at least fifty percent of coral reefs in developing countries have been killed either by damage during storms or by coral bleaching. Despite all that, Prime Minister Barrow told delegates that the social and economic demands of our population continue to increase. As such, Belize and other small island developing nations are struggling to meet millennium development goals. Even as the assaults of climate change are coming from all sides.

Prime Minster Dean Barrow

"Now Belize, with its low level of industrialization and low population is one of the tiniest contributors to green house gas emissions but we have been in the forefront of innovative mitigation actions. In February 1995 we were the first country to implement a fully funded forest sector project under the US initiative on joint implementation. We have chartered both solar and hydro-electricity projects and these have resulted since 1991 in a drastic 50 percent reduction in green house gas emissions by the energy sector despite a four fold increase in demand. But the threat of future extinction is not held at bay by our unilateral mitigation actions. Global warming knows no boundaries and the green house gas emissions from heavily industrialized nations will quite literally continue to sink us. We must therefore depend on those nations responsible for the highest emissions, whether developed or developing to act urgently and decisively here in Copenhagen. It goes without saying then that Belize fully supports the mitigation targets advocated by AOSIS; long term stabilization of atmospheric green house gas concentrations at well below 350 parts per million, limitation of global average surface temperature increases to no more than one point five celsius above pre-industrial levels and the peeking of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and their sharp decline thereafter."

Prime Minister Barrow says that the industrialized countries must recognize the role that they have played in getting us to where we are and make serious commitment to helping in the mitigation process, otherwise all the efforts that went into the Copenhagen conference would be for nothing. Prime Minister Barrow told delegates that while we cannot turn back the clock on the impacts we are now facing, we can do something about the way forward, even though, in his words, the genie is already out of the bottle.

Prime Minster Dean Barrow

"And so we call upon the developed countries to provide comprehensive financing that would generate predictable new and additional resources to support our adaptation and mitigation actions. In closing I wish to point out that it takes no act of genius to recognize either the general global pickle we are in or the particular plight of small island and low lying coastal states. Accordingly the longer term avoidance of adverse climate change effects overall but their immediate amelioration vis a vie the most vulnerable must be the measuring stick of success at this conference. This is a time therefore for large hearts rather than small minds. It is a time for the commonality of compassion rather than the hubris of power. Near the start of the second decade of the new millennium all eyes are on Copenhagen. Let the potentates of the world not fail the test, not fail the basic cause of our shared humanity."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow addressing the Climate Change conference this morning in Copenhagen, Denmark.