THE ABSENCE of TT from the list of nations invited to participate in this month’s climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden raises questions about our standing in the world as well as the state of our bilateral relationship with our most crucial ally.
Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne are among 40 world leaders earmarked for the event, according to a list issued by the White House. Further details, including additional participants, are to be released in coming weeks.
According to Mr Biden’s office, the aim of the virtual summit is “to galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.” Is there a reason why we are not included? Will we appear on a subsequent list?
Until such time as an explanation is given, it is worth considering the implications of this country not being named on the initial list.
TT is the current chair of Caricom, which would suggest this country is a natural candidate for inclusion. Additionally, with a gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding that of our Caricom neighbours, including Jamaica’s, we remain vital to the economic interests of the entire bloc.
We rely on the fossil-fuel sector, and this comes alongside our status as one of the region’s biggest polluters in terms of carbon emissions per capita (in 2019, the World Bank’s Global Carbon Project suggested each citizen of this country is responsible for 38 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent).
At the same time, as a small-island state we remain vulnerable to a host of issues raised by the climate crisis, from infrastructural challenges to flooding and the loss of farmers’ crops, as seen only a few weeks ago.
While we are not within what is traditionally regarded as the “hurricane belt,” we have been hit by hurricanes in the past. And given erratic weather patterns, there is no real guarantee we will not be hit again.
Therefore, we need to be at the table when key decisions are being made on this issue.
The summit comes at a time when this country, as chair of Caricom, has written to Mr Biden seeking assistance with acquiring covid19 vaccines. It also comes after we led an international call, alongside the World Health Organization, for a summit on equitable vaccine distribution.
Notably, Mr Biden has continued the approach of his predecessor Donald Trump, whose secretary of state met with select Caricom leaders to the chagrin of others.
Given questions raised by the visit of Venezuelan officials here in 2020, as well as recent remarks in the media by former US ambassador Joseph Mondello suggesting a degree of strain, we may need to take stock of where we stand.