Caribbean NGO Announces Renewed Climate Advocacy

A report by Petre Williams-Raynos for Jamaica’s Gleaner.

ONE CIVIL society organisation appears to be answering the call for Caribbean Community countries to hit reset on climate advocacy.

This is in the wake of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which paints a troubling picture for the region unless there is a redoubling of resilience-building efforts.

Regional communication NGO Panos Caribbean on Monday announced it is launching a new regional campaign to support the Caribbean and other vulnerable countries in the fight against climate change ahead of this year’s global climate talks set for Poland next month.

“The face of the campaign is a new, powerful painting by Saint Lucian-American artist Jonathan Gladding. It pictures a young girl with her body almost entirely submerged by sea level rise, and with her fingers sending the desperate message that she needs 1.5 to stay alive,” the release said.

It was Panos Caribbean, together with other partners from the region, that worked on the original ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ campaign which kicked off in October 2015 with a launch event held in St Lucia.

That effort saw the set-up of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account – which are still in operation – to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges.

A theme song was subsequently released, with several other activities, including a Selfie Video Challenge, and a flash mob also implemented to get Caribbean people behind the campaign. Further, present at the climate talks held in Paris that year were two regional artistes – Aaron Silk of Jamaica and Adrian ‘The Doc’ Martinez of Belize – who spread the message through music.

Panos Keen On Success Of New Effort

Panos is keen on replicating the success of the campaign, which is credited in part for the historic Paris Agreement that yielded a commitment to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

“In a campaign such as this, artists play a pivotal role because their voices are known and credible, and because they are able to convey messages in ways that resonate with the culture, feelings and concerns of people and communities,” Panos’ coordinator, Yves Renard, noted in the release.

“We encourage all organisations to reproduce Jonathan Gladding’s beautiful painting and use it to convey the urgency of action,” he added.

Panos’ efforts come on the heels of encouragement from one key Caribbean figure to relook at the advocacy work.

“In the build-up to the negotiations on the Paris Agreement in 2015, we did a fantastic job in mobilising the media, artistes, youth groups and civil society in our ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ campaign. Unfortunately, after the successes at COP21, we appear to have decided that Paris was the destination and not just another step in our journey to fight climate change, and we shifted our focus away from climate advocacy,” Dr James Fletcher, former minister of sustainable development for St Lucia, told The Gleanerearlier this month.

HIGH STAKES

Fletcher – now a consultant on sustainable development, climate change and renewable energy for small-island developing states (SIDS) – said that was an error, given what is at stake.

“Our populations are more sensitive to climate change issues now than they were four years ago, and I see that very clearly in my home country of St Lucia, where so many people come up to me and express concern about some of the decisions being taken by the US administration, or just share their opinions about how climate change is already affecting us,” he said.

“However, this is the result of the work done prior to December 2015 and not because of what we have done since Paris. This means that things like the Talanoa Dialogue, which was an opportunity for civil society to make its voice heard on climate change, and now this Special 1.5 Report, which presents ominous data on what global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius means for SIDS and other climate-vulnerable countries, have not made the news headlines and have not registered or resonated with our Caribbean populations. This is very regrettable,” he added at the time.

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