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Office of Climate Change spearheads ‘green’ agenda sessions in Schools-Regions 4, 5, 6 and 10 to benefit in first quarter of 2017

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The Office of Climate Change (OCC), which falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Presidency, in collaboration with the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), yesterday, visited three schools in East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) to continue its countrywide Climate Change sessions, which are aimed at educating students on the effects of the global phenomenon and Guyana’s pursuit of a ‘green’ agenda.

The team, comprised of staff from the Office of Climate Change and volunteers from the CYEN, delivered 90-minute sessions the All Saints Primary, the New Amsterdam Multilateral and the Manchester Secondary Schools.

During the course of each session, short videos detailing the effects of rising sea levels, importance of water management, the impact of Climate Change on the Caribbean region and Guyana, among other related areas, were shown to the students, after which they were given measures and steps they can take in the home and at school to combat the effects. It was followed by a reinforcement session in which the students were quizzed and given prizes.

Ms. Yasmin Bowman, Communications Specialist at the OCC, in an invited comment, said that the outreach to the region is one in a series of outreaches, which have been planned by Department for the first quarter of 2017. A total of 20 schools were targeted and thus far, 14 have been completed.

“What we have been doing is engaging a lot of the schools in Regions 4, 5, 6 and next week we are going to Region 10. The purpose of this awareness session is exactly what I said, to bring awareness to the students on Climate Change. From the interactions, we have had over the last few weeks, we have noticed that a number of schools and children are not familiar with Climate Change in general or what Climate Change is. Some of them have never even heard about the Office of Climate Change and so we are hoping that once we come to the school, we can bring awareness to the children,” she explained.

Ms. Bowman added that the sessions, however, are also aimed at promoting behaviour change with regard to the treatment of the environment especially at a time when Guyana has embarked on a ‘green’ development plan.

In addition to Primary and Secondary School students, “we would also be engaging nursery level students but their awareness sessions will be done in the form of puppeteering as against the format we used for the Secondary and Primary School children, where we have videos and a reinforcement session and power-point to ensure they grasp as much as possible. What we did not want to do is to use one paint brush to cover everything so we did the awareness in a format where the child could have an appreciation for what is happening,” she said.

Ms. Elon McCurdie, National Coordinator for CYEN, said that the organisation wants to focus primarily on climate change and its impacts and to identify actions that youths can take within the communities, schools and homes so that they can help in the process.

“With them being children now and them taking on actions, whether it is at school or at home, they are now heading into a more sustainable lifestyle so that as they get older, these are things that they can use to help Guyana and themselves,” she said.

Ms. McCurdie is hopeful that the programme can also be taken to the Hinterland regions and not just the Coastland, to ensure that a concerted effort is taken to combat Climate Change and global warming and to raise support for the path, which Guyana has chosen to go.

Meanwhile, Head Master of the All Saints Primary, Mr. Bassant Jagdeo, who sat in the session facilitated at his school, said that the initiative is commendable and must be taken across the country so that behaviour changes can be achieved for the good of the environment and the country as a whole.

“I really appreciate this and not only on my behalf but the entire school population. The kids are the ones that we have to target and the ones who need to become more aware. I know that a lot of the adults are neglectful in their actions and saving our earth but if we can start with the youths, then we are going to have a positive reward in years to come. This is a very great initiative and we should not only target schools but homes too need to be apart. Parents need to be involved because this starts from the home,” he said.

The school has been promoting its own little project in its compound, which sees plants being grown and the students having responsibility to take care of them. Mr. Jagdeo said that this is aimed at inculcating responsibility for the environment in the child so that they can be conscious in their actions.

Caribbean warned to prepare for more severe storms

Caribbean warned to prepare for more severe storms

At an OECS climate change forum, environmentalists warn that frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions is likely to increase.

OECS member states have been urged to prepare for more extreme weather conditions and natural disasters as a result of climate change.

The warning came from Crispin d’Auvergne, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development Officer, who was a contributing panelist at an OECS climate change forum in Dominica.

The forum is part of the Vini Kozè (Let’s Chat) Series that engages citizens in discussion and debate on development opportunities and challenges facing the region.

According to Mr. d’Auvergne, a 2008 environmental study showed that while Saint Lucia sees an average of one to two Category 4 or Category 5 hurricanes per year, it is likely to increase to four or five hurricanes of that magnitude each year. Citing another study, Mr. d’Auvergne said rainfall in the Caribbean is expected to increase by 25 to 50 percent in the next five decades. These extreme weather patterns will become “the new normal” he said, adding that because the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions is likely to increase, the Caribbean should plan accordingly, preparing for more severe natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and floods.

After Dominica was devastated by Tropical Storm Erica in August 2015, the Minister for Health and Environment, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, said Dominica had never seen a disaster of such proportions in terms of damage to infrastructure and the loss of life. Infrastructural damage was estimated at $1.4 billion. Minister Darroux said the storm caused the government to revisit its land use, policies, and regulations.

The Global Environment Fund (GEF) has been helping to build resilience in vulnerable communities in Dominica through its Small Grants Program (SGP). National Coordinator of GEF-SGP in Dominica, Agnes Esprit, said GEF’s intervention is driven by the communities in which it works, and that makes for a more sustainable and people-led approach to projects.

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) was also represented at the forum. Regional Chairperson, Jamilla Sealy, said CYEN does tremendous advocacy, public awareness, and education on the environment and climate change targeted at young people and the general populace. The Caribbean Youth Environment Network was integrally involved in the climate justice campaign that championed the “1.5 to Stay Alive” initiative leading up to COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. Sealy said she is encouraged by the traction which the movement gained.

Master Scuba Diver Kenneth Samuel, who owns and operates Kenneth’s Dive Centre in St. Kitts has earned a living from the sea for over 50 years. He started off as a fisherman and transitioned into scuba diving. Now in his 70s, Mr. Samuel said he has experienced the effects of climate change which have now begun to affect his livelihood.

The OECS Public Education Forum Series (PEFS) runs until March 2017. The next forum will be held in Martinique on Feb. 24. The topic for discussion will be OECS Regional Integration with a focus on the free movement of persons, the harmonization of legislation, and investment opportunities across OECS member states.

The forum series is part of the public education component of the Economic Integration and Trade Program of the OECS, funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

The forum was held at the Fort Young Hotel in Dominica on Feb. 10.

Credit: St. Lucia Times

Caribbean Youth Ready to Lead on Climate Issues

Members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CEYN) clean debris from a river in Trinidad. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CEYN) clean debris from a river in Trinidad. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

At 24 years old, Stefan Knights has never been on the side of those who are sceptical about the reality and severity of climate change.

A Guyana native who moved to Trinidad in September 2013 to pursue his law degree at the Hugh Wooding Law School, Knights told IPS that his first-hand experience of extreme weather has strengthened his resolve to educate his peers about climate change “so that they do certain things that would reduce emissions.”

“Notwithstanding our minor contribution to this global problem we are taking a proactive approach, guided by the recognition of our vulnerability and the tremendous responsibility to safeguard the future of our people.” – Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran.

Knights recalled his first week in Trinidad, when he returned to his apartment to find “the television was floating, the refrigerator was floating and all my clothes were soaked” after intense rainfall which did not last more than an hour.

“When we have the floods, the droughts or even the hurricanes, water supply is affected, people lose jobs, people lose their houses and the corollary of that is that the right to water is affected, the right to housing, the right to employment and even sometimes the right to life,” Knights told IPS.

“I am a big advocate where human rights are concerned and I see climate change as having a significant impact on Caribbean people where human rights are concerned,” he said.

Knights laments that young people from the Caribbean and Latin America are not given adequate opportunities to participate in the major international meetings, several of which are held each year, to deal with climate change.

“These people are affected more than anybody else but when such meetings are held, in terms of youth representation, you find very few young people from these areas,” he said.

Youth climate activist Stefan Knights. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Youth climate activist Stefan Knights. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

“Also, the countries that are not independent within Latin America and the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico which is still a territory of the United States, Montserrat, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the voices of those people are not heard in those rooms because they are still colonies.”

Knights, who is also an active member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), said young people are ready to lead.

“They are taking the lead around the world in providing solutions to challenges in the field of sustainable development,” he explained.

“For instance, CYEN has been conducting research and educating society on integrated water resources management, focusing particularly on the linkages between climate change, biodiversity loss and unregulated waste disposal.”

CYEN has been formally recognised by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as one of its Most Outstanding Partners in the Caribbean.

As recently as December 2014, several members of CYEN from across the Caribbean participated in a Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) Media Workshop on Water Security and Climate Resilience held here.

CYEN has been actively involved in policy meetings on water resources management and has conducted practical community-based activities in collaboration with local authorities.

CYEN National Coordinator Rianna Gonzales told IPS that one way in which young people in Trinidad and Tobago are getting involved in helping to combat climate change and build resilience is through the Adopt a River (AAR) Programme, administered by the National Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

“This is an initiative to involve the community and corporate entities in the improvement of watersheds in Trinidad and Tobago in a sustainable, holistic and coordinated manner,” Gonzales said.

“The aim of the AAR programme is to build awareness on local watershed issues and to facilitate the participation of public and private sector entities in sustainable and holistic projects aimed at improving the status of rivers and watersheds in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Most of Trinidad and Tobago’s potable water supply (60 per cent) comes from surface water sources such as rivers and streams, and total water demand is expected to almost double between 1997 and 2025.

With climate change predictions indicating that Trinidad and Tobago will become hotter and drier, in 2010, the estimated water availability for the country was 1477 m3 per year, which is a decrease of 1000 m3 per year from 1998.

Deforestation for housing, agriculture, quarrying and road-building has also increased the incidence of siltation of rivers and severe flooding.

“The challenge of water in Trinidad and Tobago is one of both quality and quantity,” Gonzales said.

“Our vital water supply is being threatened by industrial, agricultural and residential activities. Indiscriminate discharge of industrial waste into waterways, over-pumping of groundwater sources and pollution of rivers by domestic and commercial waste are adversely affecting the sustainability of our water resources.

“There is therefore an urgent need for a more coordinated approach to protecting and managing our most critical and finite resource – water,” she added.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran said there is an urgent need to protect human dignity and alleviate the sufferings of people because of climate change.

“We know that the urgency is now. Business as usual is not enough. We are not on track to meet our agreed 2.0 or 1.5 degree Celsius objective for limiting the increase in average global temperatures, so urgent and ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is absolutely necessary,” he told IPS.

Dookeran added that “there is no excuse not to act” since economically viable and technologically feasible options already exist to significantly enhance efforts to address climate change.

“Even with a less than two degrees increase in average global temperatures above pre-industrial levels, small island states like Trinidad and Tobago are already experiencing more frequent and more intense weather events as a result of climate change,” Dookeran said.

The foreign affairs minister said residents can look forward to even more mitigation measures that will take place in the first quarter of this year with respect to the intended nationally determined contributions for mitigation.

“Notwithstanding our minor contribution to this global problem we are taking a proactive approach, guided by the recognition of our vulnerability and the tremendous responsibility to safeguard the future of our people,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago has made important inroads in dealing with the problem as we attempt to ensure that climate change is central to our development. As we prepare our economy for the transition to low carbon development and as we commit ourselves to carbon neutrality, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is working assiduously towards expanding the use of renewable energy in the national energy mix,” he added.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Climate Change: What about the SIDS? A Youth Perspective

Young people from across the Caribbean are increasingly raising their voices about climate change and its impacts (current and projected) on the region. In recognition of this, Caribbean Climate features an exclusive contribution by 23 year old Dizzanne Billy, who is an active executive member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network-Trinidad and Tobago, in which she reflects on the role of SIDS in the global climate change discourse. Dizzanne’s reflection comes just as Small islands prepare to sign a historic treaty in Samoa

Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

I dare you.

Conduct a simple ‘Google Images’ search on climate change and what do you see before you? Indeed, visions of melting polar ice caps and stranded polar bears are the predominant insignia for the issue of climate change. Undoubtedly, these matters are cause for great concern and my purpose is not to diminish their salience in any way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has repeatedly highlighted the urgency of findings which reveal that a large portion of the West Antarctic has disappeared and they have stressed the irreversible nature of this occurrence. Nevertheless, it is pivotal that the communication of climate change exude relevance for its target audience. Images of the polar melt are likely to be met with blank stares and shrugs in the Caribbean, where the closest thing to an ice cap is party ice – huge bags of ice used to chill drinks at parties. Yes, climate change is an overwhelming concept to comprehend, and yes, the multiplicity of its very nature can prove itself complex. However, it is an issue that affects countries everywhere in the world regardless of location or level of industrial activity. However, what we must notice is that in order to effectively get the message out there and attract the most influential people to the cause, it must be communicated in a way that leads the seriousness of the issue straight to their front door.

Due to climate change, the world has witnessed longer and colder winters in some parts, drought-like conditions in others, concentrated rainfall during what would normally be a dry season, and persistent episodes of dry environments during what would usually be a wet/rainy season. These conditions have set the stage for a plethora of what can aptly be described as climatic madness  in some countries, specifically, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a term which encompasses those coastal countries that are grouped based on certain characteristics that they share. These include issues in achieving sustainable development, vulnerability to external shocks and natural disasters, and a highly embedded reliance on imports and degradation of their natural resources, which contributes to the delicacy of their environment.

 The severity of the climate change situation for SIDS can be likened to dumping a large bowl of salt in their wounds as these nations are already playing the ‘catch-up’ game in the race toward development.  For instance, water scarcity in Samoa is greatly a result of climate change as water catchments continue to dry up due to increasing temperatures and weather patterns that are progressively unstable. There is a growing belief that in semi-arid countries like Samoa, climate change and meteorological uncertainty has led to increased temperatures, less precipitation, reduced stream flows, increased evaporation from reservoirs, and major depletion of water supplies. Being an island where all watersheds are shared by villages, water governance is crucial but implementation is difficult due to lack of institutional capacity. These are generally the woes of Pacific SIDS and can be mirrored in SIDS of the Caribbean, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and the South China Sea.

A crucial consideration is the nexus between climate change and food security. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in May 2014, issued a major report which emphasised the causes, effects, and resolutions of climate change, and its influence on food security was isolated as a topic for special concern. Essentially, the accessibility to food, steadiness of food supply, and sanitation of food all fall prey to the afflictions of climate change. To add insult to injury, SIDS are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their stature and geographic characteristics. Sea-level rise can engulf coastal areas, where for instance in Trinidad and Tobago, most farmers choose to do their cultivation.

Will the day ever come when the climate change issues of SIDS are taken seriously on the international stage? Does the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities not apply to environmental issues faced by countries of this world? Indeed, developed countries continue to turn to industrialisation as the preferred measure of development, murder forests, and emit toxic chemicals and gases wantonly, but at what cost? Can a process which so drastically diminishes the quality of human life be called development at all?

 That being said, I am aware that developing countries have a role to play in dealing with the environmental issues that plague us, but we need to have a platform for our issues to be raised and an audience that is serious about addressing them. That can begin with a simple Google Images search that returns results which reflect the universal impact of climate change. Climate change is, to a certain extent, considered a very real global threat. This global threat requires global action and no action is truly global without the inclusion of SIDS at every level of the discourse.

Climate Policy Goes Hand-in-Hand with Water Policy

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Concerned that climate change could lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle, Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure it is included in the region’s plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.

Contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops.

Meanwhile, around the world, variability in climate conditions, coupled with new socioeconomic and environmental developments, have already started having major impacts.

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C), which recently brought international and regional stakeholders together for a conference in Trinidad, is aimed at better understanding the climate system and the hydrological cycle and how they are changing; boosting awareness of the impacts of climate change on society, as well as the risk and uncertainty in the context of water and climate change and especially variability; and examining adaptation options in relation to water and climate change.

“Basically we’re looking to integrate aspects of climate change and climate variability and adaptation into the Caribbean water sector,” Natalie Boodram, programme manager of the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), told IPS.

“And this is a very big deal for us because under predicted climate change scenarios we’re looking at things like drier dry seasons, more intense hurricanes, when we do get rain we are going to get more intense rain events, flooding.

“All of that presents a substantial challenge for managing our water resources. So under the GWP-C WACDEP, we’re doing a number of things to help the region adapt to this,” she added.

Current variability and long-term climate change impacts are most severe in a large part of the developing world, and particularly affect the poorest.

Through its workshops, GWP-C provides an opportunity for partners and stakeholders to assess the stage of the IWRM process that various countries have reached and work together to operationalise IWRM in their respective countries.

Integrated Water Resources Management is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health.

GWP-C regional co-ordinator, Wayne Joseph, said the regional body is committed to institutionalising and operationalising IWRM in the region.

“Our major programme is the WACDEP Programme, Water and Climate Development Programme, and presently we are doing work in four Caribbean Countries – Jamaica, Antigua, Guyana and St. Lucia,” he told IPS.

“We’re gender-sensitive. We ensure that the youth are incorporated in what we do and so we provide a platform, a neutral platform, so that issues can be discussed that pertain to water and good water resources management.”

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) is a non-profit, civil society body that focuses its resources on empowering Caribbean young people and their communities to develop programmes and actions to address socioeconomic and environmental issues.

Rianna Gonzales, the national coordinator of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, has welcomed the initiative of the GWP-C as being very timely and helpful, adding that the region’s youth have a very important role to play in the process.

“I think it’s definitely beneficial for young people to be part of such a strategic group of people in terms of getting access to resources and experts…so that we will be better able to communicate on water related issues,” she told IPS.

The CYEN programme aims at addressing issues such as poverty alleviation and youth employment, health and HIV/AIDS, climatic change and global warming, impact of natural disasters/hazards, improvement in potable water, conservation and waste management and other natural resource management issues.

The GWP-C said the Caribbean region has been exposed to IWRM and it is its goal to work together with its partners and stakeholders at all levels to implement IWRM in the Caribbean.

“A very significant activity for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has been to prepare a Water Sector Model Policy and Model Water Act which proposes to remedy the key water resources management issues through new institutional arrangements and mechanisms that include water and waste water master planning, private sector and community partnership and investment mechanisms,” GWP-C chair Judy Daniel told IPS.

IWRM has not been fully integrated in the policy, legal and planning frameworks in the Caribbean although several territories have developed/drafted IWRM Policies, Roadmaps and Action plans. Some of these countries include: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana, Jamaica; The Bahamas; Trinidad and Tobago; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

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