Caribbean leaders who met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week hope Canada will prioritize their concerns, such as the serious threat their countries face as a result of climate change, on the international agenda.
Trudeau left for a moment the issues of domestic politics and his commitment to the conflict between Israel and Hamas to co-chair a three-day meeting with leaders of the economic and political bloc that brings together Caribbean countries in a bloc called CARICOM.
On October 13, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Philip Pierre, described the issues that will be on the agenda at the Canada-CARICOM summit that meets in Ottawa until this past Thursday.
Pierre, CARICOM’s climate change leader, said the world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 and which came into force in 2016.
That agreement, within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, commits countries to work to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
Despite this agreement, the planet is getting closer to exceeding that objective. The UN reported that the world has already warmed by at least 1.1 C. According to the UN, failure to meet global climate commitments has put the world on track for a temperature increase of between 2.4 C and 2.6 C by 2100.
Saint Lucia Prime Minister Philip Pierre said he hopes one outcome of the summit will be a message to the world, through Canada, that the region needs help to cope with the effects of climate change taking place with phenomena such as more frequent and intense tropical storms, a rise in sea level and hotter days.
The region, Pierre said, needs Canada’s assistance to secure better financing conditions from private lenders and multilateral development banks to help it adapt to climate change.Hopefully Canada can make our problems known to the international community, Pierre said.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s office said in a news release that this week’s summit will be an opportunity for countries to advance shared priorities.The leaders will also work to combat climate change and address its impacts in the Caribbean, including exploring ways to improve access to finance for small island developing states in the Caribbean, the statement says.
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CARICOM is a regional organization created by the Treaty of Chaguaramas on July 4, 1973. It consists of 15 full members and five associate members. Full members are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The overseas territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands are associate members
More than two million Canadians travel to CARICOM countries annually and more than 10,000 CARICOM students study in Canada each year.In 2022, bilateral trade between Canada and CARICOM countries reached $1.8 billion.
Haiti is part of the agenda
This is Trudeau’s second meeting with CARICOM heads of government since his trip to the Bahamas in February.As was the case then, the worsening security, political and humanitarian crisis in Haiti will be a central theme in discussions in Ottawa this week.
Since Trudeau’s last meeting with Caribbean leaders, the UN Security Council voted to authorize a mission to Haiti, led by Kenya. The African country agreed to send 1,000 soldiers to help restore law and order on the devastated Caribbean island.
That mission was put on hold when a Kenyan court granted an interim injunction after it was argued that the mission was unconstitutional because it did not have the support of the Kenyan Parliament.
As Kenya resolves its constitutional issues, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, current president of CARICOM, said it is necessary to continue working to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
Skerrit said Haiti will need a Marshall Plan, citing the strategic economic plan developed by the allies to help rebuild Europe after World War II. He stated that the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and CARICOM must come together to help Haiti. Haiti needs us now more than ever, he said.
Former Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Robert Ready said this week’s summit aims to strengthen ties between Canada and the region through a long-overdue meeting.
Canada has recently focused on Asia, Europe and Latin America, but over the past three years Ottawa has made efforts to reengage with CARICOM, which represents a region home to 16 million people.
Although there are many Canadians who travel south as tourists, I think both sides have tended to take each other for granted in the past, said Ready, who now sits on the board of directors of the Canadian Caribbean Institute.