Ambassador Janine Felson of Belize, a climate change and oceans expert and advisor to the Alliance of Small Island States, talked to CASA this month about the climate crisis.
In her video interview, she describes how climate change has affected Belize and forced the Caribbean nation to become more adaptive and resilient. Belize moved its capital from Belize City – which was devastated by a hurricane – to the new location at Belmopan in 1970. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Belize are “the proverbial canary in the coalmine,” she reflects. “We recognise that what happens to us will eventually happen to everyone” and ” we can be incubators of some of the solutions that the world may need.” Demonstrating leadership to innovate climate solutions is hugely important to SIDS – she says.
Ambassador Felson sets out a plea for SIDS to receive more, appropriate climate finance to implement the Paris Agreement. That means grants and concessional finance, not further high-interest loans that would push SIDS further into debt. Belize’s recent debt-for-marine-conservation swap was a good start, but more innovations like this are needed.
Looking ahead to COP27 in November 2022, Ambassador Felson calls for climate-related loss and damage to be on the agenda of the formal negotiations. The 134 countries who belong to the G77+China group have already asked for this, but the request is meeting stiff opposition from a few industrialised states.
The Paris Agreement commits its Parties to addressing loss and damage on a collaborative basis, Ambassador Felson says. In this spirit, it’s vital to have a conversation about it at the United Nations conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, and ensure that individual countries’ concerns “do not block multilateralism.” With island states already suffering climate-related loss and damage, she concludes that “a full and frank discussion” is needed among all countries, including those with a history of high emissions.
Interview by CASA’s Mairi Dupar and Pat Hinton, video editing and production by Pat Hinton. Image (top), Belize, credit Meritt Thomas