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‘Climate change is real,’ says Premier Cartwright Robinson

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Rugged coastline of the north shore of Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. © SF photo/Shutterstock.com

“Climate change is real and we’re not a Government that is going to deny it.”

These sentiments were expressed by Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson in response to a question posed by reporters on the Government’s position on climate change.

Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to the Earth’s atmosphere.

These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise, ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide, shifts in plant blooming, and extreme weather events.

This global trend has been blamed for intensifying hurricane Irma which wreaked havoc on many Caribbean countries and territories including the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Speaking at a recent press conference, the country’s leader maintained that the Government is keen on formulating strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change locally.

She said: “Our position is: it is real, something is changing something is happening, and while we can’t duck and dodge or ignore it we have to build a resiliency towards it.

Cartwright Robinson added that over the last few months, staff of the Ministry of Public Works attended training sessions on climate resilience hosted by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) which has its headquarters in Barbados.

“At those seminars they would’ve done some training in building roads in resilience to climate change.

“Also in our last meeting in the House of Assembly we passed what was a motion for a loan from CDB to look at restoring and rebuilding seawalls to be resilient to climate change.

“So we have already taken action showing that we believe that climate change is real unlike some heads of government.”

She emphasised that in order to protect the socioeconomic gains and make development efforts in the territory sustainable, efforts to build climate and disaster resilience are essential.

“We believe that it is real and we will have a firm policy where critical departments which serve on that committee, headed by Mr Ronlee James of my office, will play a role in how we build our resiliency.”

Several economists from the CDB have argued that rising disaster and climate risk, in addition to high vulnerability to seismic events, is threatening to undo much of the territory’s impressive development over the last few years.

Protecting the TCI’s coastline

A feasibility study and designs for coastal protection works in Grand Turk, North, Providenciales and Salt Cay are expected to be carried out soon.

A shoreline management plan will also be created to protect the Islands’ coastlines using climate-resilient approaches.

This project will be supported by a $440,000 loan, a $50,000 grant allocated from resources provided by the European Investment Bank under the Grant Facility for Climate Action Support to CDB, and counterpart funding of $289,000 from the TCI Government.

The provision of the loans and grant come directly on the heels of the CDB’s 47th annual flagship event held in the Turks and Caicos Islands in May this year.

According to O’Reilly Lewis, the chief of economic in the infrastructure division of the CDB, coastal defence is important in sustaining the TCI’s tourism industry.

He said: “Tourism is the main pillar of TCI’s economy, with its coastal and marine resources as the basis of the sector.

“The loss of critical beach assets due to coastal erosion, as well as the other anticipated changes resulting from climate change, would potentially have significant negative implications for settlements, tourism sites and livelihoods resulting from the reduction in coastal and marine economic activity.”

Lewis pointed out that the feasibility study and designs derived from the technical assistance project will provide the TCI Government with viable designs for climate-resilient infrastructure solutions to safeguard social and economic development, economic growth and livelihood security.

The shoreline management plan will strengthen the TCI’s capacity to sustainably monitor and manage the country’s beaches and related coastal assets.

It will also assist the Government with the development of a more comprehensive integrated coastal zone management plan.

The intervention is consistent with the CDB’s strategic objective of supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development within its borrowing member countries.

It also aligns with the bank’s corporate priorities of promoting disaster risk management and climate change mitigation and adaptation, and improved protection and sustainable management of natural resources.

Credit: Turks and Caicos Weekly News

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