News Releases

Experts link climate and reparatory justice

For Release Upon Receipt - April 11, 2022



The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica W.I. Monday, April 11, 2022. — The University of the West Indies (The UWI) in collaboration with the Open Society University Network (OSUN) recently hosted a webinar on the Caribbean’s need for climate justice. The virtual engagement held on March 30 was part of Open Society’s Global Teach-In series. Championing a grassroots effort, the initiative designated the date for universities and organisations worldwide to lead events focused on ambitious but feasible, region-specific solutions to help Solve Climate by 2030. 

The webinar Climate Justice in the Caribbean, hosted by the University’s Office of Global Affairs was one of more than 250 events held throughout the global OSUN network. The public education event which engaged a wide group of stakeholders, built on the research projects and collaborations that have been fostered through The UWI’s MOU with Open Society Foundations—one of which supports the development of a climate justice strategy. 

In her welcome remarks, UWI Pro Vice-Chancellor of Global Affairs, Dr. Richards-Kennedy reinforced the University’s position as an activist and SDG-engaged academy. The UWI, she said, is committed to the idea of higher education institutions being at the forefront of climate action and climate justice. She noted also that universities “… are not only vital hubs for research, teaching, and knowledge exchange. They also serve as living laboratories and are important spaces for demonstration projects on how research can be applied to provide practical solutions to climate challenges.”  

She also introduced the connection between climate and reparatory justice stating, “Climate justice is integrated also into the discourse on reparatory justice because research has shown that the countries that are the most affected are those that were historically exploited and drained of natural resources during centuries of extraction and exploitation that occurred during colonization.” This connection was acknowledged and supported by other presenters on the webinar, which included: Ms. Yamide Dagnet, Global Director, Climate Justice, Open Society Foundations; Dr. James Fletcher, Former Energy Minister of Saint Lucia and Founder and Managing Director, SOLORICON Ltd; and Dr. Emily Dick-Forde, Acting Deputy Principal, The UWI Open Campus, and Management Committee Member of the UWI Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development. 

Ms. Yamide Dagnet commended The UWI as being a ‘powerhouse’ in climate change leadership. She also acknowledged the connection between the justice discourse on climate change and The UWI’s global leadership on reparation for slavery and genocide. “The poor, women…the most vulnerable, marginalized communities of indigenous, black and people of colour; we bear the consequences disproportionately without any guarantee of dignity.” She went on to note that although these communities bear little responsibility for climate change and its significant economic costs, “the impact of climate change on vulnerable countries has been neglected and unfunded.” 

Dr. James Fletcher flagged the need to shift the conversation from ‘climate change’ to ‘climate crisis’ during his contribution. He believes that climate change suggests something incremental – therefore something for which we have time to prepare. However, he warned, “We do not have time so really what we are faced with is a crisis. A catastrophe that is unfolding at a very rapid rate…we now must adjust our response to suit the urgency.” He encouraged the Caribbean to make its own efforts; end the self-inflicted damage and build resilience in areas such as water systems, public health, and public infrastructure.  

Dr. Emily Dick-Forde called for Caribbean governments and people to “take active and even aggressive roles in the pursuit of climate justice.” Citing the working definition included in the UWI’s Climate Justice initiative Dr Dick-Forde said climate justice implies “…transformative changes and the need to look beyond national boundaries to what is good for the world as a whole.” 

She continued “Climate justice is asking for priority to be placed on the spending of national governments in those countries where their development and advancement came on the backs of other regions in several ways. Not just in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but certainly in terms of historical injustices with respect to colonialism, imperialism, neocolonialism and especially the root, which is the enslavement and exploitation of Africans.” Highlighting the resulting financial and mental limitations for exploited regions, Dr. Dick-Forde stated unapologetically “Historical injustices are in fact hindrances to climate action in the Caribbean.” She believes reparatory justice should focus beyond our historical past; “It has to be seen as having an active role in going forward with respect to ensuring climate justice and to promoting climate action for resilience building in the Caribbean.” 

Regarding solutions to the urgent need to mainstream climate justice and address the climate crisis facing the Caribbean, the panelists shared several thoughts. Ms. Yamide Dagnet suggested that solutions require “free exchange of ideas and thoughts and that everyone should have the choice and dignity in shaping the policies that affect them.” Dr. James Fletcher took the opportunity to call on Caribbean governments to “intensify the diplomatic pressure on developed countries to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases…to increase their financial support to climate-vulnerable countries and lobby actively and robustly for climate justice.” Dr. Dick-Forde advocated for democratizing the systems for managing climate funds to widen access beyond governments to NGOs, community groups, and activists. 


A recording of the webinar ‘Climate Justice in the Caribbean’ can be accessed via UWItv’s Facebook page here. 

About The University of the West Indies

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region.

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Open Campus, and 10 global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world.

The UWI has been consistently ranked among the top universities globally by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education (THE). In the latest World University Rankings 2022, released in September 2021, The UWI moved up an impressive 94 places from last year. In the current global field of some 30,000 universities and elite research institutes, The UWI stands among the top 1.5%.

The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists since its debut in the rankings in 2018. In addition to its leading position in the Caribbean, it is also in the top 20 for Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 100 global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the leading universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

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(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)