Speech by the Prime Minister

Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness at United States of America Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate Session 2 on Thursday, April 22, 2021

  • The Honourable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States of America,
  • Excellencies and colleagues

Happy Earth Day!

The need for meaningful climate action has never been greater.

Jamaica is heartened that the United States has re-joined the Paris Agreement – an important expression of global solidarity for climate action.  We are also greatly encouraged by the United States’ announcement to cut emissions by half by 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for Small Island Developing States with the collapse of tourism, falling revenues, rising debt, limited access to vaccines and with disasters continuously threatening lives and our sustainability.

Governments are forced to choose between addressing today’s crises and building resilience to mitigate against future shocks.

Notwithstanding these challenges, Jamaica’s enhanced NDCs target a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030.

We, like all SIDS and many developing countries, remain committed to advancing climate action, and we are determined to build forward stronger, better and greener.

The world COMMITTED to $100 billion per year to support climate action in developing countries. It is critical that this commitment not only be honored but that the ambition be increased and major emitters should contribute more to its financing. We welcome President Biden’s announcement in this regard.

I encourage all governments to play their part in achieving this goal, and the private sector MUST ALSO be engaged.

While increasing the quantum of financing is necessary, it will not be sufficient to address the needs of SIDS unless it is accessible and flexible enough to target support for our vulnerabilities.

While some progress has been made, significant hurdles remain in accessing climate finance; and the pace of implementation does NOT reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.

We need to take specific actions to include:

1) The establishment of a global disaster fund to help SIDS recover, and manage disaster risk.

2) The development of innovative risk-informed financing for disasters and climate events.

3) The inclusion of vulnerability measures as the PRIME CONSIDERATION in determining access for financing rather than only income criteria.

4) The scaling-up of debt-for-climate-adaptation swaps to simultaneously address climate crises AND the systemic debt issues affecting already burdened developing countries.

Jamaica has great sprinters; we know that a great start does not guarantee a win.

It requires momentum building, in this case, an accessible and equitable climate finance mechanism.

We have raised our ambition and now call on major economies to step up and sprint with us to the finish line. We can win this, but we must act now!

I thank you.