United Action towards a Greener, Secure Future: Reflections on the United Nations Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week


Picture of Didier Trebucq and Vincent Sweeney

(L-R) Didier Trebucq is UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Vincent Sweeney is Head, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Sub-Regional Office


Op-Ed: United Nations Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW) convenes from October 23 to 27, by Didier Trebucq and Vincent Sweeney


In the heart of the Latin American and Caribbean region where the vibrant cultures and rich biodiversity intersect, the United Nations Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW) will be convened from October 23 to 27, 2023 hosted by the Government of Panama. Leaders, activists, policymakers and experts from across the region will assemble to take stock on the critical challenges of climate change ahead of COP28 in Dubai. LACCW is a call to regional action on four priority areas: i) energy systems and industry; ii) cities, urban and rural settlements, infrastructure and transport; iii) land, ocean, food and water; and iv) societies, health, livelihoods and economies.

The consequences of climate change are felt acutely in the 29 Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS) that have experienced record high temperatures, with consequent impacts from rising sea levels, devastating hurricanes, longer dry seasons and droughts, which affect economies, populations and livelihoods. Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean SIDS are among the smallest and most vulnerable, with small, open economies that have been beset by recent external shocks such as the 2008 global financial and 2020 COVID-19 crises. Caribbean SIDS also grapple with decades of unsustainable practices in development, production and infrastructure that have, over decades, spewed solid waste and effluent pollution into sensitive terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Combined with climate effects, these threaten the resilience of ecosystems which provide frontline protection in coastal areas.

In a 2023 Caribbean survey on SIDS challenges conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the highest category of reported concerns cited were “adverse effects of climate change” (15%), followed by “loss of biodiversity” (11%), and “natural disasters” (8.7%). Climate change disproportionately affects the poorest, most marginalized, and vulnerable communities. Women and children often lack access to resources and assets to cope with disasters. Poverty levels in Eastern Caribbean SIDS average 24.6 percent 1, while women tend to be unemployed at higher rates and paid at lower levels than men, which increases their vulnerability. Most of the poor are employed in tourism and agriculture – sectors that are particularly vulnerable to external events. Small-scale landholders and producers are also increasingly vulnerable due to high levels of income dependence on degraded agriculture lands and fishing stocks. It is essential to protect and empower these communities to become more resilient by involving them in coordinated disaster preparedness and response, early warning systems, and investing in climate-resilient livelihoods and social safety nets. This also means investing in education and public awareness, ensuring that everyone knows the role they can play in turning the tide against global warming and reducing the severity of future climate impacts.

The theme of this year’s LACCW is "Building a Resilient and Inclusive Future in Latin America and the Caribbean." The theme is more apt than ever for reinvigorating the battle against climate change and leveraging the power of the collective to build a resilient and inclusive future. The 2023 LACCW will bring together multiple institutions and national stakeholders to gather the sentiments and core messages for action that the region will take to COP28 as well as the upcoming Fourth International SIDS Conference in 2024.

Caribbean communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change, and quick action must be taken to learn, adapt and prepare for these changes. Infrastructure must be strengthened to withstand extreme weather events, sustainable agriculture practices adopted, and cities reinforced to be more climate resilient. Mitigation is also key to combating climate change. Although the region is not among those that have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we must take proactive steps to reduce our carbon emissions. This involves transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar power, and promoting sustainable options across all sectors.

Consequently, access to climate finance, especially for adaptation, is essential to build resilience but unfortunately the Caribbean SIDS do not have sufficient financing to support their investment needs. This should be addressed with utmost priority and both the Bridgetown initiative promoted by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the UN Secretary General’s SDG Stimulus plan provide most needed financing solutions.

The UN Eastern Caribbean Multi-Country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (MSDCF) 2022-2026 provides a robust framework for UN assistance in the sub-region. For example, the promotion of sustainable agriculture and forestry practices, and identifying suitable policy frameworks for sustainable transportation and energy-efficient buildings. The UN is also working to improve the resilience of communities through strengthening early warning systems, disaster preparedness and responsive social protection mechanisms. Despite this valuable work, efforts must be scaled up so the sub-region can build a resilient and inclusive future. This may seem like a huge task, however, progress can be accelerated by taking small steps to accelerate the transition to clean energy, leverage natural resources for sustainable solutions and protect and empower vulnerable communities.

To combat climate change effectively, we must come together as a region. Climate change does not respect class, race, borders, or boundaries. It is a global problem that requires a collective response.

As we observe LACCW, let us be reminded of the tremendous benefits to be gleaned from f collaborating as countries and communities to promote public awareness, share knowledge, pool resources ,and work towards common goals. By strengthening our collective response, we can find innovative solutions to address the biggest threat to mankind – as we endeavour to preserve people and planet.


1. Common Country Analysis 2020, United Nations for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. https://easterncaribbean.un.org/en/126827-un-barbados-and-eastern-caribbean-common-country-analysis