As large ocean states, maritime matters are at the forefront of climate change discussions in the OECS and have been linked to every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) given the significant role it plays in the daily lives of residents.

“Legal Issues Related to Sea Level Rise” was the focus of a recent consultation held on Thursday, 9 November 2017 by The Commonwealth Secretariat at a side event of the COP23 currently being held in Bonn, Germany.

Mrs. Norma Cherry-Fevrier, Programme Officer in the Social & Environmental Development Division of the OECS Commission, provided an update on the Maritime Boundaries in the Caribbean and the implementation of the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy (ECROP).The ECROP outlines the policy and goal for Maritime Boundary Delimitation (MBD) in the OECS sub-region and its implementation is linked to the achievement of SDG 14.

The ECROP also lists the following priority actions:

  • Priority 1: Maritime Boundary Delimitation
  • Action 1.1 – Negotiate, agree and delimit maritime boundaries with third party (non-OECS) States
  • Action 1.2 – Negotiate, agree and delimit maritime boundaries between OECS Member States

Since 1981, 8 boundary delimitations of OECS Member States have been concluded.  It is worth noting that the ECROP has accelerated boundary delimitation given that 5 of the 8 concluded have occurred since its establishment.

The complex, and often legal, implications of changes in Maritime Boundary Delimitations due to sea level rise were also discussed at the side event.

Mrs. Cherry-Fevrier reiterated the significance of sea level rise for the region in light of recent findings.

“Findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program show that global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100 — and that a rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out.”

“The dominant cause for this increase is human activities, especially green house gasses, that have led to the warmest period in modern civilization.”

For OECS Member States, sea level rise will:

  • Cause baselines to recede/disappear;
  • Reduce marine space and natural capital;
  • Compromise growth and development;
  • Increase vulnerability; and
  • Pose an existential threat.