Caribbean States Unite in Song to Promote the Climate Change Position of Small Islands

The threat to small island states being posed by climate change is the focus of a song commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the CARICOM Secretariat.

Entitled “1.5 To Stay Alive”, the song is written and performed by Barbadian performance poet Adisa “AJA” Andwele. AJA is also the UNDP Spokesperson for Peace and Poverty Eradication for Barbados and the OECS.

The theme of the song refers to the Centigrade degree limit to which global surface temperatures can rise before Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are severely compromised in their ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), of which Caribbean islands are members, and the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) joined to form a coalition of about 80 countries demanding that global efforts be concentrated on keeping temperature increases under 1.5°C to lessen the devastating impacts on these highly vulnerable countries.

These impacts include sea level rise with accompanying coastal erosion and destruction of coastal infrastructure, damage or death to coral reefs and fisheries, saline intrusion into aquifers thus diminishing freshwater supplies, and more intense hurricanes and storm surges. The continued social and economic survival and environmental integrity of these countries, particularly low-lying islands such as the Bahamas, which face the possibility of complete inundation, is questioned as their risk and exposure increase. The AOSIS Declaration on Climate Change, agreed at their High-level Summit on Climate Change in September this year, in addition to the 1.5°C limit, also calls for peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 with subsequent decline, and long term stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations below 350ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide. It is a position that was earlier enunciated by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the Liliendaal Declaration on Climate Change and Development which they issued after their Summit in July this year.

AJA’s poetic lyrics bring to the fore with vivid imagery the fears and concerns of people living on small islands. Some of these impacts are already being experienced and threatening the homes and livelihoods of these populations. As leaders of developed and larger developing nations are currently proposing to commence climate change negotiations around 2°C, others are adamant that this cannot be the level of minimum acceptable risk since it ignores the human rights of millions at the outset.  As President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives asserted at the AOSIS Summit that the resulting massive losses for some SIDS would be tantamount to “mass murder” as it gives little hope for their survival.

Forming the culmination of the Bali Road Map charted in December 2007, these negotiations will occur at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP XV) in Copenhagen,Denmark from 7-18 December 2009. This meeting will be attended by world leaders with the intention of agreeing to various mechanisms to succeed the Kyoto Protocol formed in 1998. This Protocol set targets for Annex I countries (mainly developed or industrialised nations) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. InCopenhagen leaders will aim to establish commitments for greenhouse gas reduction in a post-2012Kyoto regime. Many opposing positions are arising during the meetings leading up to COP XV, including the proposal by some developed countries that emissions reduction targets also be imposed on developing countries while some developing states argue that this would be detrimental to their developmental progress.

“1.5 To Stay Alive” is written in the rapso tradition, which combines poetry performed to calypso and other rhythms from the Caribbean. The song also features the dynamic vocals of Barbadian singer, iNDRANi. With support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and in conjunction with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), UNDP is assisting CARICOM leaders in their preparations forCopenhagen as they solidify their unified position to be presented at COP XV. This song demonstrates part of these regional efforts to promote more ambitious, fair and effective global action on climate change.

It can be accessed at the websites of the respective organizations as follows:,, or