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Forging a climate resilient development pathway in the Caribbean

Dr. TrotzDr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, and a senior strategic advisor to Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), outlines the tremendous opportunities for climate compatible development in the region in a featured Op-Ed published by CDKN Global.

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean have made significant strides in responding to a changing and variable climate. However, the dissonance between climate change time horizons and immediate development needs and priorities as articulated by public policy-makers pose a primary challenge to the region’s efforts to achieve low emissions, build resilience and promote development simultaneously. Specifically, climate change projections are often expressed in timeframes ( 5 years, 50 years, 100 years) that have little or no relation to the routine development planning timeframes (5 years, 10 years, 30 years) used by the public policy-makers and the expectations of the general public.

This challenge exists alongside the peculiarities associated with multi-country policy-making, hazards of our small size, geography, and limited resources that often impedes ambitious and decisive action. Given this mix of challenges, it’s crucial that the region frames climate change responses such that they’re viewed as urgent and integral for development imperatives such as poverty reduction, debt-servicing, and growth.

The efficacy of this approach is typified by Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ strong commitment to make climate change a priority during his chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) immediately after the unprecedented weather event that ravaged the Eastern Caribbean in December 2013. In declaring climate change as a key focus of his six month chairmanship of the regional block, Dr Gonsalves noted “we are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” which underscores the importance of showing the link between existing weather events and climate projections across time-horizons. Dr Gonsalves’s realisation of this link will allow him to bring a sense of urgency to the XXV Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of Government where climate change will feature prominently in the discussions.

In our quest to forge a climate resilient development pathway, the Caribbean has been tackling the primary challenge of aligning the comparatively distant time horizons of climate projections with more immediate development objectives and political considerations in a multi-country policy-making context. The Heads of Government of CARICOM endorsed the Liliendaal Declaration on Climate Change and Development in 2009, which defines the positions of Member States, and approved “A Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change”. The Regional Framework and its associated Implementation Plan (approved in March 2012), both of which were prepared by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre with support from CDKN, specifies actions and timeframes that complements some of the political time horizons and specific development objectives.

The development of the Caribbean Climate Risk Management Framework and its associated Caribbean Climate Online Risk Assessment TooL (CCORAL) is a direct response to one of the actions defined in the Regional Framework. Climate risk management tools like CCORAL with cross-sectorial applicability are crucial elements of the region’s emerging strong early action framework for building climate resilience and advancing our development objectives.

New CARICOM chairman to place emphasis on climate change

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday he would use his six month term as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to deal with the deleterious effects climate change is having on the socio-economic future of the 15-member bloc.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are now emerging from the effects of a weather system that left a trail of death and destruction over the Christmas holidays.

Caribbean countries have also had to deal with the annual hurricane season and in many cases, like in Haiti, unseasonal rains that cause widespread devastation.

“The big issue…is global warming, climate change. We are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” he said making reference to the floods in April last year and the Christmas Eve rains that resulted in the deaths of nine people and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages here.

“There are lots of monies which countries talk about for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. But I haven’t seen the money yet and we have to use our diplomacy as a region and we have to be aggressive with our climate change center in Belize.

“In my term as chairman of CARICOM this is one of the issues which you will recall I said earlier on…I want dealt with during my term in a continued serious and structured way, (and it) has to deal with the deleterious effect of climate change and to get the requisite responses from the international community in relation to this matter”.

Gonsalves told a news conference that the region does not contribute “anything to these man made weather systems, these problems with putting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We are …on the front line,” he said, adding that “this is an issue which is big”.

Gonsalves said that efforts were now underway to stage an international donors’ conference to help the three affected islands recover and rebuild their battered infrastructures.

He said he had already received a letter from Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), outlining plans for an international donors’ conference.

“There is a letter which Baldwin sent to me which I have reviewed and make one or two slight alterations and suggestions, but we have to prepare for a donors’ conference well, maybe in March may be in February… but we have to prepare for it well so that we can get the donors to make pledges,” he said, recalling a similar conference had taken place to help Grenada after it was battered by a recent hurricane.

“I know some of the donors came through and others did not, but at least we need to do that to lift the profile,” Gonsalves said.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister told reporters that an insurance scheme organized through the World Bank, to which all the Caribbean countries contribute, does not go far enough.

“To the extent that the monies you get from the Catastrophic Relief Insurance System is fairly minimal, but of course every little bit helps,” he said.

Gonsalves said he had already written to the leaders of several countries and was now  waiting to see “what kind of grant assistance we can get because we really need grants preferably.

“The World Bank will give soft loan monies, the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will give soft loan monies, the European Union will give grants, Venezuela will give grants, (and) Taiwan will give grants”.

CMC/kc/ir/2014

Credit: CMC
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