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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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5Cs Leads South-South Cooperation in Pacific

Sprep PhotoExecutive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE, recently  led a team of experts from the Caribbean to the Pacific in a bid to strengthen existing South-South collaboration with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The SPREP and the Centre signed a wide-ranging MOU in 2011 that paves the way for work to be done to make the two regions climate resilient.

“Like the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean islands are small in size, vulnerable to climate change and the lives of our people  are based on utilising natural resources,” said Dr Leslie.

Over the last five years the 5Cs executed over 16 climate change projects across the Caribbean at a cost of approximately US$45 million, much of which is of a similar nature to that which SPREP has been undertaking in the Pacific.

Read more via SomoaObserver

Three criteria the Green Climate Fund MUST meet for the Caribbean to benefit

Credit: CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food

Credit: CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Warren Smith says the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a new multilateral initiative, must achieve three short-term objectives if it is to be different, make a significant contribution to transforming Caribbean economies and create low carbon, climate-resilient societies in the region.

  • First, the Board of the Fund must complete before year-end, the design work necessary to ensure that the Fund becomes operational by 2014.
  • Second, given the global scale of the climate challenge, the GCF must be well resourced. In this regard, developed countries should, by the end of this year, make firm commitments towards resourcing the initial capitalisation of the GCF;
  • Third, this Fund must pay particular attention to the needs of those developing countries which are most vulnerable to climate change.

In underscoring the importance of this Fund, Dr. Smith said,

We, in the Caribbean, share the vision of the founders of this Fund, as enunciated in its Governing Instrument that, “given the urgency and seriousness of climate change …the Fund is to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change”

He continued…

To ensure that [developing] countries can access the Fund on equal terms, when it is fully operational, the Board must advance, in a meaningful manner, its work programme on climate finance readiness and preparatory support.

The  GCF Board members from Barbados and Zambia, representing the Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries constituencies, have called for the prioritisation of activities related to readiness and preparatory support during the design of the Fund, as developing countries in these groups have, traditionally, not accessed climate finance at levels commensurate with their high vulnerability to climate change.

Take, for example, the case of the Caribbean. Of the 694 national projects approved by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) under its climate change focal area between FY 1991 and FY 2013, only 33 national projects from CARICOM countries received support. This represents a mere USD24 million or less than 1% of the total USD2.5 billion grant financing provided by the GEF for national climate action. The amount allocated to the Caribbean must be seen in the context of a worsening of the climate change phenomenon and of economic losses in excess of USD1 billion in three Caribbean countries for 2012 alone.

This inability of Caribbean countries to access climate financing can be directly attributed to institutional constraints; to difficulty in identifying priorities and developing coherent investment programmes; and to serious deficiencies in capacity to effectively and efficiently implement projects and programmes.
It is extremely important to note that, in general, the burdensome criteria attached to accessing resources are often by themselves a deterrent to access.

The situation is complicated by the monitoring and reporting requirements to evaluate outcomes.
Therefore, if these countries and other countries with similar capacity constraints are to benefit from the GCF, it is crucial that focus is placed on “climate finance readiness” at the national, regional and international levels ~Dr. Warren Smith

Despite these challenges, Dr. Smith notes that there is consensus, at the highest political levels in the Caribbean, on the way forward.

Leaders have endorsed a Regional Climate Change Strategy and Implementation Plan to guide national and regional efforts towards building climate-resilient, low-carbon economies. This effort will require transformational change by national governments, regional organisations, civil society and the private sector, underpinned by an unprecedented level of financial resources and technical assistance. Within the context of the regional Implementation Plan, CDB has been assigned, and takes seriously, the role of spearheading the Region’s resource mobilisation efforts.

Dr. Smith says the region must boost  capacity (policy, institutional, expertise and accountability) and develop investment-ready, low-carbon climate-resilient projects and programmes to benefit from the GCF and other new flows of low-carbon, climate-resilient financing.

Dr. Smith was speaking at the launch of the Green Climate Fund Workshop on Climate Finance Readiness in Barbados on July 11, 2013. Read his speech here.

** The workshop was convened by CDB, in partnership with the Green Climate Fund and the Government of Germany through GIZ.

Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, also spoke at the workshop. See highlights of his speech here and/or review the actual speech here.

Also read: Dr. Ulric Trotz says the Caribbean lags in climate finance

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