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Excerpt taken from the Inter-American Development Bank’s publication:
Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21: No. 41: March, 2017
One of the greatest injustices of pollution is that its consequences are not limited to those who produce it. The Caribbean is one of the least polluting regions in the world but it is also one of the most exposed to global warming due to the importance of the tourism sector within its economy.
Carlos Fuller, an expert from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, explains the consequences of the region’s dependence on petroleum and analyzes the potential of public policy for supporting renewable energy.
How is climate change impacting the Caribbean?
The Caribbean’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small because we have a small population, we are not very industrialized, and we don’t do a lot of agriculture, so we don’t emit a lot. However, mitigation is important for us because of the high cost of fuel and energy. Most of our islands depend on petroleum as a source of energy, and when oil prices were above US$100 per barrel, we were spending more than 60% of our foreign exchange on importing petroleum products into the Caribbean. In that respect, we really want to transition to renewable energy sources as we have considerable amounts of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy potential.
Has climate change started to affect tourism?
It has. Climate change is severely impacting our natural attractions, our tourist attractions. For example, we have a significant amount of erosion because of sea level rise, wave action, and storm surges, which is causing tremendous erosion and affecting our beaches. Our coral reefs, which are a big attraction, are also suffering a lot of bleaching which is impacting our fish stock. Those resources are being affected significantly. We do have significant protected areas; however, we need more resources to enforce the protection of these.
What role do public policies play in developing renewable energy?
In some countries, [we’re] doing reasonably well on this front. In Belize, for example, we now have independent coal producers and we have transitioned to an increased use of hydro, solar, and biomass, so more than 50% of our domestic electricity supply is from renewable energy sources. However, on many of the islands, we need to create an enabling environment to allow renewable energy to penetrate the market. We are going to need a lot of assistance from the international community to put in the regulatory framework that will allow us to develop renewable energy in these places. We then need to attract potential investors to provide sources of renewable energy in the region. Of course, the Caribbean’s tourism is an important sector of the economy, which is one of the reasons we need to protect our reserves and natural parks. We are also trying to make our buildings more resilient to the effects of extreme weather. That is the focus of our work.
How does the Green Climate Fund work?
The Green Climate Fund is headquartered in South Korea and it has an independent board of management. However, various agencies can be accredited to access the fund directly. We have already applied for a project to preserve the barrier reef and another to promote biomass use in the Caribbean. So, we have two projects in the pipeline through the Green Climate Fund which are valued at around US$20 million.
Do you think that the Paris and Marrakesh summits brought concrete results for the region?
We were very pleased with the outcome in Paris. The objectives that the Caribbean Community wanted were achieved: the limit for warming was set at 2°C; adaptation was considered along with mitigation; finance, technology transfer, and capacity building were included; and a compliance system was put in place. All the things that we wanted out of Paris, we achieved, and so we are very happy with that.
Peruse the complete Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21
In 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef was designated as World Heritage Site. However, concessions for offshore exploration and navigational errors that cause grounding on the reef had resulted in it being added UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2009.
But earlier this week, the Government of Belize has approved a policy that will legally apply a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System, and within the seven (7) World Heritage Sites in Belize. During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the ministers agreed to specifically ban offshore exploration in all 7 World Heritage Sites:
- Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park
- Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and National Park
- Lighthouse Reef Natural Monument
- South Water Caye Marine Reserve
- Laughing Bird Caye National Park
- Glovers Reef Marine Reserve
- Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve
This effectively results in a total of 448 square miles being banned. In addition, Cabinet agreed to a ban offshore exploration within one kilometer on either side of the Belizean Barrier Reef System, resulting in an additional 868 square miles falling under the offshore exploration ban. The total area covered by the ban is 842,714 acres or 1,316 square miles.
Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre Marc Patry told the Communications Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) “I was very happy to read that the Government of Belize has decided to ban all oil exploration activities within the World Heritage site, and even extending out 1km beyond the boundaries. This is a testament to the strength of the World Heritage Convention.”
Patry who is currently the principal consultant for World Heritage Solutions also says “It’s worth noting that major mining and oil companies are ahead of game on this one – having officially recognized World Heritage sites as “no-go” areas. It surprises me when the private sector is more visionary than some governments on conservation matters! Still, I applaud the tireless efforts of Belizeans who I know have been making a lot of noise over this issue and congratulate the government of Belize for doing something for which Belizeans a hundred years from now will thank them for.”
Cabinet further agreed that areas that fall outside of the large acreages banned, would not automatically allow for seismic activities and exploration drilling without conducting the existing stringent environmental studies to determine critical habitats and sensitive zones. The required environmental studies would then further give guidance to areas outside the ban, to scientifically determine the type and nature of exploration that can occur in these explorable areas. This decision by the Cabinet demonstrates the government’s resolve in ensuring the continued protection of Belize’s Barrier Reef System and its seven World Heritage Sites.
The Australian High Commissioner to CARICOM Ross Tysoe AO says “impressive work” is being carried out by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which he experienced first-hand during a recent visit.
The envoy cited the Centre’s effective management of Australia’s technical and cooperation assistance in supporting Belize’s Barrier Reef Marine System, adding that Australia is pleased to have contributed to this project which included a coral reef early warning station. The Ambassador said the project is a “fantastic example” of CARICOM-Australia cooperation. Speaking on Thursday, April 04, 2013 following the formal acceptance of his letter of credence by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the envoy said he is convinced Australia’s aid programmes are “in safe hands”.
Cooperation between CARICOM and Australia was formalised in November 2009 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, between the leaders of CARICOM and Australia. At that meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, paving the way for Australia to make some $60 million (AUS) available over four years to CARICOM for cooperation in areas of special mutual interest.
The areas of cooperation include climate change, disaster risk reduction and emergency management; regional integration, including trade facilitation; education, including in the fields of science and technology, provision of scholarships and training of diplomats; university co-operation; food security and agricultural co-operation; renewable energy, microfinance; border security and sport, youth and culture.
Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre.