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A blue urban agenda: adapting to climate change in the coastal cities of Caribbean and Pacific small island developing states

Cities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have leveraged nearly US$800 million in green climate funding to support coastal resilience, says a new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report.

The study, A Blue Urban Agenda: Adapting to Climate Change in the Coastal Cities of Caribbean and Pacific Small Island Developing States, estimates that 4.2 million people in SIDS in the Caribbean and in the Pacific are living in areas that are prone to flooding due to rising sea levels. As a result the region has now become a reference for other port cities.

“Mayors in port cities across the globe should be cognisant of the enormous economic costs and implications of sea level rise, hurricanes and coastal storms to port infrastructure,” Michelle Mycoo, co-author of the report, told Cities Today. “Mayors will need to consider a mix of strategies such as higher investments in robust coastal defences, alternative future upgrading and expansion plans such as retreating from the coast and relocation of storage areas for container cargo further inland.”

The international community has responded by providing US$55.6 billion in aid and private sector flows to Caribbean and Pacific SIDS over the last 20 years. These programmes have included coastal engineering to protect cities from flooding and coastal erosion, wetland restoration, coral reef conservation and watershed rehabilitation, urban planning and the enforcement of coastal setbacks and flood-resistant building codes.

“The urban planning profession clearly needs to pursue a Blue Urban Agenda and build cities that respond to their shores and the needs of coastal residents,” said Michael Donovan, co-author and Housing & Urban Development Senior Specialist, IDB.

The study reviewed 50 projects financed by the IDB, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others, and the efforts made by Caribbean and Pacific SIDS to implement adaptation strategies aimed at reducing vulnerability and enhancing sustainability. It shows an increasing emphasis on urban governance and institutional capacity building within city planning agencies.

It includes several policy recommendations for cities, including improving coastal planning, land reclamation, coastal setbacks, enforcement of building codes, climate-proofing infrastructure, mangrove reforestation, and coastal surveying and monitoring.

“Adapting and improving the resilience of cities in coastal zones of SIDS, especially those experiencing rapid urbanisation, remains critical,” added Donovan. “Caribbean and Pacific coastal cities are on the front lines of the response to climate change and are pioneering innovative approaches to respond to coastal transformation. All eyes are on these islands as port cities across the world look for answers to the coastal question.”

Credit: Cities Today

Caribbean Coral Reef Leaders Complete Intensive Fellowship at the Great Barrier Reef

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

Photo Credit: Environmental Graffiti

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. The loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the region, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the Caribbean is seeking to turn the tide through partnerships. A group of five coral reef managers from across the Caribbean recently participated in an intensive three week Coral Reef Management Fellowship programme at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – the best managed reef in the world.

The Caribbean contingent was among a group of 12 fellows, including their peers from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Caribbean fellows are: Roland Baldeo (Grenada), Andrea Donaldson and Christine O’Sullivan (Jamaica), Michelle Kalamandeen (Guyana) and Andrew Lockhart (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The fellows visited government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They experienced the Great Barrier Reef and many facets of catchment to reef management through direct interactions with a diversity of land and sea habitats, scientists, managers, farmers, educators, media, volunteers and industry leaders. The Fellowship also included home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange.

This was a rare and valuable experience as it brought together coral reef managers from diverse locations to gain and share expertise. Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, welcomed the successful completion of the fellowship, noting:

“This is an excellent programme to boost understanding of marine protected areas and the role it can play in sustainable development. It gives our people an opportunity to see how effective coral reef management is done in another community. Importantly, they are gaining insights from the major work being done to rectify some of the issues with the world’s longest barrier reef. It’s a unique experience.”

Citing the fellows’ exposure to an intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station, which included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and teamwork, Dr Leslie urged the fellows to be agents of change across the Caribbean.

“At this point in our development it is important that we ensure that whatever we do, we do not make the assumption that resources are unlimited and that all our actions are resilient and our environment is protected,” Dr Leslie added.

The Caribbean and Pacific fellows are part of an Australia Awards Fellowship programme funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, titled Improving coral reef management for sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pacific. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The programme supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders.

The fellowship programme was organised and hosted by Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting company with expertise on coral reef management, which was founded by former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employees Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall.

“We have observed the decline of coral reefs globally and we recognized that training of future leaders is essential for turning the tide towards a more sustainable future. Australia is the world leader in coral reef conservation and marine resource management. This Fellowship is a chance to share Australia’s expertise with the world,” said Dr Marshall.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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