New Caricom Chairman calls for climate reparations for Region

…urges regional approach to tackling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
…Heads of Govt recommit to strengthening Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) on Monday held the opening ceremony for its 42nd meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom, where a number of issues from COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy to the effects of climate change on member states were discussed.

New Caricom Chairman, Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne

New Chairman of Caricom, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne pointed to the floods in Guyana and Suriname that have devastated households, to highlight the vulnerability of Caricom states to the ravages of climate change.
“As I speak, several of our member states are recovering from the effects of hurricane Elsa. I take the opportunity to offer the solidarity and support of (my) Government and the entire Community… the recent volcanic eruptions in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the flooding in Guyana and Suriname, which displaced thousands of people and destroyed agriculture production, provide further evidence of the ongoing challenges besetting our member states,” he said.
According to the Caricom Chairman, the time has come to explore climate reparations from developed countries who are main contributors to greenhouse gases, to vulnerable states bearing the brunt of the effects.

President Irfaan Ali with members of his Cabinet and other officials during the Caricom Heads of Government meeting

“The causes of the climate crisis have already been scientifically established and the time has come for those countries irresponsible enough to continue their damaging emissions and practices, to be held accountable.”
“It is my view that real progress on the climate crisis will only be made when the major polluters are made legally liable for the damage caused… this is a call for climate reparations that Caricom must take up urgently and engage in vigorous diplomatic outreach to build international consensus on this issue.”

Meanwhile, Browne also urged his fellow Heads of Government to consider the question of how the region can best tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and increase access to and use of the COVID vaccine. He also urged those who are reluctant to be vaccinated, to rethink this approach.
“I urge those who are reluctant to take the jab, to think again. I appeal to your better nature and your appreciation of the wellbeing of yourself, your family and your fellow citizens. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
According to Browne, a regional approach to tackling vaccine hesitancy among citizens is also important, if countries in the region are to achieve herd immunity and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
Browne noted the economic importance of economies being able to breathe again and for jobs to be retained. He also pointed to the importance of education, which has been disrupted to various degrees around the world by the pandemic, to return to normal.
“In our tourism-based economies, the resumption of regional travel is one key element in getting economic activity back to normal. Increased movement of people within our community would be a major boost to our economies in seeking to rebound. To assist in this regard, we need to immediately establish common or harmonised health protocols for travel, that are clear to the public and communicated widely.”
“The discriminatory practices of banning travel from member states with elevated levels of COVID, while accommodating guests from countries of higher risk, should be discouraged. Air transport is the oxygen that keeps tourism alive and functioning in our region. We need to care for it,” Browne said.

Secretary General
Meanwhile, Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque also referenced the flooding in Guyana and Suriname, noting that St Vincent and the Grenadines has also had to contend with the passage of Hurricane Elsa, which also affected several other Caricom countries. This came even as the island was still dealing with the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano.
“The vulnerability of our member states can never be in doubt. At times like this, the true spirit of our Community is demonstrated as member states are always the first responders,” the Caricom Secretary General said.
On the issue of COVID-19, LaRocque urged the region to design a pathway to recovery that will not only resuscitate the regional economies but also enhance the resilience of the region and build on what was previously there.
Coming out of the first day’s discussions, Caricom Heads of Government recommitted to strengthening and rebuilding their countries in the wake of the several natural disasters that have wreaked havoc across the region in recent months.
President Dr Irfaan Ali, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd, Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud, Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Walrond and other officials attended the virtual meeting.
The meeting is being held on the heels of the 48th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community. This year also marks 20 years since the adoption of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, establishing the Caribbean Community including the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).