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Climate-health security in the Caribbean: an analysis

With a diverse topography and vulnerability to natural and human-made shocks, Editor John Kirton discusses how the Caribbean is exploring options to establish climate-health security with Dr C James Hospedales

Dr C JamesHospedales, Executive Director, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Photo Credit: St. Lucia News Online

Q - How do the Caribbean’s distinctive features make it vulnerable to climate change?

A – With 30 diverse countries and territories and more than 40 million people, the Caribbean comprises most of the world’s small island developing states (SIDS), places of extraordinary beauty and vulnerability to natural and human-made shocks, none more so than climate change. With more than 50 million arrivals per year, by air and cruise, it is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. But the industry is vulnerable to damage by climate change. The Caribbean oceanic basin is trapping warming and increasingly acidic waters, with unprecedented coral reef bleaching and die-offs and impacts on food and economic security. It is experiencing increasingly intense and frequent extreme weather events. Floods from heavy rainfall combined with rising sea levels create immediate emergency health relief needs, damage health centres and hospitals, and increase the risk of epidemics. Climate-sensitive disease vectors such as Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry dengue and Zika. As temperatures rise, they are increasing in density and their ability to spread disease. Zika shows the intergenerational and cross-border costs this can bring: there is now local transmission of the virus in southern Florida. The Caribbean’s largely middle-income countries are ineligible for many of the development and climate change control funding available only to low-income countries. Yet their capacity to respond is low because of their very small size.

Q - How have these vulnerabilities inspired the Caribbean to pioneer solutions?

A – The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) was established in 2005. The Pan American Health Organization’s ‘SMART Hospitals’ programme to build resilience to the effects of climate change is a good contribution. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) recently launched the Expert Panel on Climate and Health with Tulane University to analyse, control and prevent the impact on human health and the environment. The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) was created in 2007 to help countries manage the economic risks of increasingly frequent hurricanes. Its work was endorsed by the G7 leaders at their summit in 2015. Discussions are under way to expand the coverage to include associated health effects of extreme weather events. Greening the CARPHA campus is another initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs.

Q - What more could the Caribbean do?

A The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association could work with regional institutions to rank how tourism facilities perform on integrated environmental and health standards. Cities of the Caribbean could be encouraged to join the C40 and ask it to address health effects and economic impacts in a broader and more integrated way. The Expert Panel calls for promoting alternative transport such as biking and walking, with links to the tourism industry, with triple bottom line returns. The Caribbean could create an integrated annual state-of-the environment-and-health report. This need for a joined-up set of information is a key recommendation of the Caribbean Development Bank on water as a strategic regional resource. Caribbean institutions could work more closely with the International Seabed Authority and UN Environment’s Caribbean Office – both headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica – to increase bidirectional learning about the health effects of climate change.

Q - How can the G7 leaders at their Taormina Summit best help?

A – G7 leaders could recognise the unique shared interests of the G7 and the G20 in the Caribbean – given the region’s location between North and South America, closely connecting independent countries with territories dependent on the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and parts of France through travel and trade. They could work with the region’s institutions to implement a G7/G20- CARICOM project to address health, climate and the environment in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. They could recognise the Caribbean’s contributions beyond the CCRIF, and create a global risk insurance facility based on a more comprehensive and integrated concept of climate-associated risks that incorporate their many health effects. They could invite Caribbean leaders to attend the next G7 summit, in Canada in 2018, as was done for Jamaica and Haiti when Canada last hosted in 2010. They could institutionalise a regular dialogue between the G7 and Caribbean institutions responsible for health and climate change, starting with regular preand post-summit briefings. They could create an emergency response and surge capacity fund that can be drawn on by regional institutions such as CARPHA to address the health effects of climate change.

Peruse the complete G7 publication here.

Global conference renews call to reduce greenhouse gas

(Photo: AP)

The fifth Regional Platform for disaster risk reduction in the Americas began in Canada today with the United Nations (UN) reiterating a call for the reduction of greenhouse gases that it has labelled “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser told a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean, that climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

“We also recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt this week will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years.”

The March 7-9 conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), marks the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework recognises Global and Regional Platforms for DRR as key mediums for its implementation, building on the pivotal role that they have already played in supporting the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005 – 2015.

It also underscores the need for the Global Platform and the Regional Platforms to function as a coherent system of mechanisms in order to fully leverage on the potential of collaboration across all stakeholders and sectors to provide guidance and support in its implementation.

The main focus of the conference will be to discuss how governments, ministers, civil society leaders, technical and scientific institutions, private sector, media could drive the implementation and measurement of the expected outcomes of the Sendai Framework in the Americas.

Glasser said the work of adopting and implementing the Sendai Framework is “important for the rapid urbanisation taking place across the region which brings with it new challenges for risk governance and disaster risk management.”

He said Latin America and the Caribbean is the most urbanised region of the world as over 80 per cent of its population live in urban areas and that it could increase to 90 per cent within a few decades.

The conference is being held under the theme “Resilience for All”.

In his welcome remarks, Canada’s Minister for Public Safety Ralph Goodale told the gathering they need to make good use of their time together to move forward on a robust regional action plan that can increase the open exchange of research and technology that can save lives worldwide.

“A plan that is grounded in the Sendai Framework’s guiding principles that can help strengthen and organise, prepare, budget and govern; and how we engage critical partners…and a plan that can let us use our collective influence to increase the number of countries and territories and organizations that do have strategies in place to reduce the risks of disasters.”

Among the topics to be discussed over the next three days include “Understanding the risks in the Americas, Empowerment of women and girls and gender Equality in Disaster Risk Reduction and High Risk Populations as Agents of Change for Disaster Risk Reduction”.

Credit: Jamaica Observer

At UN Biodiversity conference, new guidelines for agro-environmental policies in Latin America & Caribbean

Photo: ©FAO/ Camilo Vargas

The guidelines will serve as a template for countries to create their own policies to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns

In an effort to combat the impacts of environmental degradation and promote sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change, FAO this week presented a set of Voluntary guidelines for agro-environmental policies meant to help policy makers in Latin America and the Caribbean in their ongoing work to eradicate hunger and poverty in the region.

The guidelines were introduced at an event on the sidelines of COP 13 – the UN conference on Biodiversity taking place in Cancun, Mexico, December 4-17 – for an audience of ministers and representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The guidelines will serve as a template for countries to create their own policies to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns, enabling them to transform their agricultural systems, ensure sustainable development and comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to FAO, the transition to a sustainable future requires action on the intersection of economy, society, agriculture and natural ecosystems.

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean share common environmental challenges, including the need to adapt agriculture to climate change, conserve biodiversity, manage their water resources and soils, and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions.

Other participants in the event included Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the NGO Razonatura.

Protecting the resources that support food security

Thirty-seven percent of the surface area of Latin America and the Caribbean is used for agricultural activities, which presents great challenges for sustainable food production and the care of the environment.

According to FAO, the region is experiencing increasing pressure on the natural resources that underpin food production and food security.

The guidelines presented at the COP13 point out that the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change mainly affect the most vulnerable social sectors.

Family farmers, small scale fishermen, smallholder forest producers, indigenous peoples and traditional communities are among those most directly dependent on natural resources for their subsistence and food security.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, family farmers account for 75 percent of total producers -involving some 60 million people – a number that exceeds 90 percent in some countries. These farmers safeguard the environment and the natural resources on which they depend and their work is key for the sector’s current and future development.

What are the Voluntary guidelines?

The Voluntary guidelines for agro-environmental policies have been prepared through a broad process of consultation between authorities and specialists in the region, with the support of the International Cooperation Program between Brazil and FAO.

The implementation of these guidelines may enhance the potential environmental benefits of agricultural, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture activities, reduce their impacts on ecosystems and improve food availability, as well as food and nutritional security.

The countries of the region, with FAO’s support, will promote these voluntary guidelines as a guide to improving policies under an agro-environmental approach that links society, territory, environment and economy in a more integrated and harmonious way.

Policies emerging from these guidelines will be formulated through interaction with different social actors, and seek to promote rural development with a territorial approach, according to principles of conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.

Precious resources under threat

Latin America and the Caribbean accounts for 15 percent of the world’s total agricultural land, receives almost 30 percent of precipitation and generates 33 percent of global runoff.

However, the rapid exploitation of minerals, gas, forests and pastures is producing dramatic changes in land use: the region currently accounts for 14 percent of global land degradation, a figure that reaches 26 percent for Mesoamerica.

Although deforestation has declined in recent decades, the region still has the second highest rate in the world, and each year more than two million hectares of forest are lost.

In the last three decades water extraction has doubled in the region at a rate well above the world average, most of which is used in agriculture.

Credit: Military Technologies

Study: Climate change will lead to annual coral bleaching in the Caribbean

 

Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo Credit: Paul Marshall

A new study has predicted that if current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs, including many in the Caribbean, will suffer severe bleaching — the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems — on annual basis.

The finding is part of a study funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, which reviewed new climate change projections to predict which corals will be affected first and at what rate.

The report is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Researchers found that the reefs in Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the first to experience annual bleaching, followed by reefs off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia.

Calling the predictions “a treasure trove” for environmentalists, the head of the UN agency, Erik Solheim, said the projects allow conservationists and governments to prioritise reef protection.

“The projections show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late,” Solheim said.

On average, the reefs started undergoing annual bleaching from 2014, according to the study.

Without the required minimum of five years to regenerate, the annual occurrences will have a deadly effect on the corals and disrupt the ecosystems which they support, UNEP said.

However, it said that if governments act on emission reduction pledges made in the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius, the corals would have another 11 years to adapt to the warming seas.

Between 2014 and 2016, UNEP said the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event recorded.

Among the casualties, it said, was the Great Barrier Reef, with 90 per cent of it bleached and 20 per cent of the reef’s coral killed.

Credit: Jamaica ObserverUnited Nations Environment Programme

Commonwealth brainstorms climate change responses

The Commonwealth is bringing together global experts to thrash out new ideas for not just reducing climate change but actually reversing its effects by mimicking success stories in nature.

At a two-day gathering on Friday and Saturday at the 52-country organisation’s headquarters in London, a diverse band of experts in fields such as biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration traded ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth.

Rather than a series of presentations, the conference instead saw experts from around the world huddle in groups to brainstorm.

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical s...

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth ©Greg Baker (AFP/File)

“Some of our island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean will be hit first and potentially disappear, therefore climate change has been an issue of real importance to the Commonwealth,” Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland told AFP.

– Termite mound buildings –

Examples were shared of concrete absorbing carbon, ecologically destroyed landscapes flourishing again through getting carbon back into the soil, and getting more productive agriculture through mimicking the ecosystems of wild, untended land.

There were discussions on buildings designed like termite mounds that ventilate themselves with cool air, or making ships’ hulls like shark skin.

Also mooted were vertical axis wind turbines arranged in school-of-fish formation so the ones behind gain momentum from the vortices, creating far more wind power than regular wind farms.

“It’s stunning, but this is not inventing anything new. Life’s been at it for 3.8 billion years,” biomimicry expert Janine Benyus told AFP.

“We’re talking about bringing carbon home — rebalancing the problem of too much carbon in the air and not enough in the soil,” she added, stepping out of a workshop.

With its diverse membership covering a quarter of the world’s countries, action within the Commonwealth often paves the way for wider global agreements.

The climate change accords reached at its biennial summit in Malta last December were instrumental in the Paris COP21 UN climate conference deal struck later that month, which agreed to cap global warming at less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

– ‘Practical, practical, practical’ –

Scotland will take forward ideas and outcomes from the London workshop to the COP22 summit in Marrakesh in November.

“We’re setting off the starter pistol for this race,” the secretary-general said.

“The Commonwealth is seeking to be the platform through which ideas can be transferred.

However, in the arena of climate change, many intriguing proposals get ditched on the grounds of cost, practicality or fears that they could end up inflicting environmental damage.

“We’re looking at how we can share real solutions and help each other to get there faster,” said Scotland.

“We’re saying ‘practical, practical, practical’. If it works, it’s affordable, implementable and makes the difference, then we need people to understand they can believe in it.”

Some sessions focused on so-called big picture ideas, looking at Earth as a complete system.

Delegates discussed how carbon can be used as a resource, in which returning it to the ground can bring about lasting soil fertility and jobs and thereby political stability.

“Life creates conditions conducive to life. It’s about creating new virtuous circles rather than vicious ones,” said Daniel Wahl, who designs regenerative cultures.

“If we do a good job, we can find the funding because the will is there,” he told AFP.

“The time of ‘them and us’ thinking is past. The people who were against each other now have to come together.

“People are dying today from the effects of climate change. To them, it’s not an intellectual debate any more.”

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions ©Simon MALFATTO, Paz PIZARRO (AFP)

Credit: Daily Mail Online

Japan and UNDP launch climate change project in eight Caribbean countries

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Members of the J-CCCP Project Board following the project launch

The government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean climate change partnership (J-CCCP) on Thursday, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The launch follows a two-day meeting with more than 40 representatives from eight Caribbean countries, including government officials, technical advisors, NGO and UN partners to set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies.

The new initiative will help put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, such as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs). It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

“The government of Japan is pleased to partner with UNDP. It is envisaged that the project will also contribute to building a platform for information sharing in developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the transfer of adaptation and mitigation technologies. Japan expects, through pilot projects and information sharing, the project will enable the Caribbean countries to enhance their capacity to cope with climate change and natural disasters,” said Masatoshi Sato, minister-counsellor and deputy head of mission at the embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, stressing that the partnership will also promote South-South and North-South cooperation, including study tours to Japan for government officials and technical advisors.

Participating countries include Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.

“This partnership comes at a critical time in our nation’s sustainable development programme,” said Gloria Joseph, permanent secretary in the ministry of planning, economic development and investment in Dominica. “Dominica has experienced firsthand the devastating and crippling effect that climate change can have on a nation’s people, their livelihoods and economy, risking losing up to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to a tropical storm or hurricane. Dominica stands ready and welcomes the opportunity to benefit from early response warning systems, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures as it seeks to restore and ‘build back better’.”

Climate change is recognised as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities. Boosting resilience is crucial for the region’s development and is a clear part of UNDP’s global strategic plan of programme priorities.

Negative impacts on land, water resources and biodiversity associated with climate change have also been predicted with the potential to affect shoreline stability, the health of coastal and marine ecosystems and private property, as well as ecosystem services. Increasing coastal erosion and severe coral reef bleaching events are already evident in some locations.

“UNDP has been championing the cause of climate change in the Caribbean for many years and we are pleased to partner with the Government of Japan toward the implementation of climate change projects in eight Caribbean countries,” said Rebeca Arias, regional hub director for UNDP’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In light of the COP21 agreement, these projects are timely in assisting countries to respond more effectively to the impacts of climate change and to increase their resilience through actions today to make them stronger for tomorrow.”

Credit: Caribbean News Now

Tackling climate change in the Caribbean

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Sanchez, Petite Martinique. Climate-Proofing the tiny island of Petite Martinique includes a sea revetment 140 metres long to protect critical coastal infrastructure from erosion. (Photo: TECLA  FONTENAD/IPS)

The world is still celebrating the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the main outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its ambitions are unprecedented: not only has the world committed to limit the increase of temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” it has also agreed to pursue efforts to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

This achievement should be celebrated, especially by Small Island Development States (SIDS), a 41-nation group—nearly half of them in the Caribbean—that has been advocating for increased ambition on climate change for nearly a quarter century.

SIDS are even more vulnerable to climate change impacts — and risk losing more. Global warming has very high associated damages and costs to families, communities and entire countries, including their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What does this mean for the Caribbean? Climate change is recognized as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities.

Moreover, scenarios based on moderate curbing of greenhouse gas emissions reveal that surface temperature would increase between 1.2 and 2.3 °C across the Caribbean in this century. In turn, rainfall is expected to decrease about 5 to 6 per cent. As a result, it will be the only insular region in the world to experience a decrease in water availability in the future.

The combined impact of higher temperatures and less water would likely result in longer dry periods and increased frequency of droughts, which threaten agriculture, livelihoods, sanitation and ecosystems.

Perhaps the most dangerous hazard is sea level rise. The sea level may rise up to 0.6 meters in the Caribbean by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This could actually flood low-lying areas, posing huge threats, particularly to the smallest islands, and impacting human settlements and infrastructure in coastal zones. It also poses serious threats to tourism, a crucial sector for Caribbean economies: up to 60 per cent of current resorts lie around the coast and these would be greatly damaged by sea level increase.

Sea level rise also risks saline water penetrating into freshwater aquifers, threatening crucial water resources for agriculture, tourism and human consumption, unless expensive treatments operations are put into place.

In light of these prospects, adapting to climate change becomes an urgent necessity for SIDS—including in the Caribbean. It is therefore not surprising that all Caribbean countries have submitted a section on adaptation within their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are the voluntary commitments that pave the way for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In their INDCs, Caribbean countries overwhelmingly highlight the conservation of water resources and the protection of coastal areas as their main worries. Most of them also consider adaptation initiatives in the economic and productive sectors, mainly agriculture, fisheries, tourism and forestry.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting Caribbean countries in their adaptation efforts for many years now, through environmental, energy-related and risk reduction projects, among others.

This week we launched a new partnership with the Government of Japan, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The initiative will be implemented in eight Caribbean countries: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.

It will set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies, helping put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change. It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

When considering adaptation measures to the different impacts of climate change there are multiple options. Some rely on infrastructure, such as dikes to control sea level rise, but this can be particularly expensive for SIDS, where the ratio of coastal area to land mass is very high.

In this context, ecosystem-based adaptation activities are much more cost-effective, and, in countries with diverse developmental priorities and where financial resources are limited, they become an attractive alternative. This means healthy, well-functioning ecosystems to boost natural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change, reducing people’s vulnerabilities as well.

UNDP, in partnership with national and local governments in the Caribbean, has been championing ecosystem-based adaptation and risk reduction with very rewarding results.

For example, the Government of Cuba partnered with UNDP, scientific institutes and forestry enterprises to restore mangrove forests along 84 km of the country’s southern shore to slow down saline intrusion from the sea level rise and reduce disaster risks, as the mangrove acts as a protective barrier against hurricanes.

In Grenada, in coordination with the Government and the German International Cooperation Agency, we supported the establishment of a Community Climate Change Adaptation Fund, a small grants mechanism, to provide opportunities to communities to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. We have engaged with local stakeholders to develop climate smart agricultural projects, and climate resilient fisheries, among other activities in the tourism and water resources sectors.

UNDP’s support is directed to balance social and economic development with environmental protection, directly benefitting communities. Our approach is necessarily aligned with the recently approved 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its associated Sustainable Development Goals, delivering on protecting ecosystems and natural resources, promoting food security and sanitation, while also helping reduce poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.

While there is significant potential for climate change adaptation in SIDS, it will require additional external resources, technologies and strengthening of local capacities. In UNDP we are ideally placed to continue working hand-in-hand with Caribbean countries as they implement their INDCs and find their own solutions to climate-change adaptation, while also sharing knowledge and experiences within the region and beyond.

 

Jessica Faieta is United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

 

Credit: Caribbean 360

Caribbean environmental experts explore climate change and public health responses

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Within recent times, the Region has experienced more frequent and severe storms and hurricanes, increases in mosquito-borne diseases, rises in sea level, prolonged periods of drought and salt water intrusion of coastal groundwater sources, which pose a significant threat to human health.

Recognizing the critical need to be more climate change resilient, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), UNEP-Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR-RCU), and the Government of Saint Lucia, will host a Conference to address issues related to climate change and health.

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CARPHA Executive Director Dr. James Hospedales said that because Climate Change threatens traditional public health infrastructure, the focus will be on environmental health services.

Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales explained that “climate change threatens traditional public health infrastructure. It will stress environmental health services, such as efforts to respond to severe weather events and disease outbreaks, provide assurance of drinking water safety, and implement vector control measures.

At the same time measures like alternative transport such as biking and walking and rapid mass transport can improve population health, mitigate climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and reduce the import bill for oil.”  He added that the Conference “will bring together government representatives, and regional and international organizations to address issues of public health, environment and socio-economic well-being.”

The meeting, which will be held at the Golden Palm Conference Centre in Saint Lucia, runs from November 18 – 20 November, 2015, and will serve as a platform for information-sharing, and also as a “think tank” for developing innovative, Caribbean-specific solutions to our environmental health and sustainable development challenges.

Agenda items include discussions on preparations for Zika Virus and recent experiences with Chikungunya; food and water security; achievements of the Caribbean Cooperation for Health III; and a Caribbean Environmental Health Officers and Partners Planning Session.

Credit: St. Lucia News Online

Climate Change Exchange – Presentations and COP 21 Card

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre held the second in a series of Climate Change Exchange events last Thursday in Belize City. The first was held in Barbados last October. The event, which was held with support from the European Union – Global Climate Change Alliance (EU -GCCA) Programme and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) under the DFID ARIES project, sought to raise awareness and promote dialogue about COP 21 slated to be held in Paris later this year, the United National (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), and the range of work done by the Centre across the Caribbean over the last decade.

The widely supported event attracted over 150 guests drawn from the apex of government, the diplomatic corps, the scientific community, civil society, development partners, universities, local and regional media and the general public. It was also live-streamed and broadcast live on four television stations (Krem, Love, Channel 5 and Channel 7) and two radio stations (Krem and Love) in Belize. The event was also covered by the Barbados-based Caribbean Media Corporation and Jamaica’s CVM TV.

An impressive set of international, regional and national experts addressed the audience, including Professor Christopher Fields and Dr Katherine Mach of Stanford University, Mr Carlos Fuller, a veteran Caribbean negotiator, Dr Leonard Nurse, a member of the IPCC’s research and author teams for four global assessment reports and three key project managers.

Peruse the Speakers' Guide to learn more about our speakers.

 Why is COP 21 Important?

This key public education event was held as 2015 is shaping up to be a landmark year for global action on Climate Change. The future of the Caribbean depends on a binding and ambitious global agreement at COP 21. A bold agreement that curbs greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global rise in temperature to below 2°C is needed to safeguard our survival, food, critical industries such as tourism, infrastructure and promote renewable energy.

Peruse our informational card "Why is COP 21 Important?" for more context and the region's 11 point negotiating position leading up to COP 21.

Here’s the Agenda to guide you as you peruse the evening’s key presentations (below).

Key Presentations

Keynote Address by Professor Christopher Field and Dr. Katharine Mach of Stanford University 
Keynote Address  by Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer at the CCCCC – 
CCCCC's Programme Development and Management Presentation by Dr. Mark Bynoe, Sr Economist and Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit at the CCCCC 
EU -GCCA Presentation by Joseph McGann , EU - GCCA Programme Manager at the CCCCC
KfW Presentation by Kenneth Reid, KfW Programme Manager at the CCCCC 

*Click all hyperlinks to access relevant files/webpages.

Barrier Reef coral genetically altered in hope of surviving Climate Change

Coral species from different climes being mixed as a form of ‘assisted evolution’ to see if it will help them adapt more quickly to rising sea temperatures.

Coral Bleaching: Just 1C to 2C of further warming in areas of the reef already under pressure could push it beyond what it can recover from. Photograph: Dan Dennison/AP

Coral Bleaching: Just 1C to 2C of further warming in areas of the reef already under pressure could push it beyond what it can recover from. Photograph: Dan Dennison/AP

The Australian government’s marine research agency is looking to genetically alter species of coral to help them cope with rising sea temperatures, as new modelling showed the coverage of living corals on the Great Barrier Reef could decline to less than 10% if warming continued.

Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science have partnered with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology to look at how “assisted evolution” may help corals more quickly adapt to climate change. These studies are some of the first conservation-based, non-commercial uses of genetic modification.

A study modelling the prospects of the reef using a decade of data found there was a “very high likelihood” of coral cover plummeting below 10%, with corals replaced by sponges and algae as temperatures increased.

This would take the Great Barrier Reef beyond what previous studies suggested was a key “tipping point” that would threaten the reef’s ability to recover and grow. Such a reduction, the study suggested, could occur with just 1C to 2C of further warming in areas of the reef already experiencing pressure from other impacts such as fishing and pollution. This amount of warming is virtually locked in due to the current amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Great Barrier Reef used to be one of the more pristine examples of reefs globally, but it has suffered a decline and will continue to do so if action isn’t taken,” said report co-author Jennifer Cooper, a James Cook University PhD student who worked on the study with scientists from the UK and the US.

“Our model showed that reducing the impact of other human threats to the reef, such as overfishing and pollution, did mitigate coral decline. However, if temperature increases more than 2C the benefit of lowering threat levels may not be enough to stop further coral loss.

“This suggests that climate change, and more specifically sea surface temperature increase, is an important driver of change on the reef.”

The stark warning on the reef’s future prospects follows a period of decline that has seen coral cover drop to 14% – half of what it was 30 years ago. Climate change, pollution and a plague of coral-eating starfish have been identified as the main causes of the deterioration.

Aims is now looking at radical new ways of helping Great Barrier Reef corals deal with the rapid rate of warming and acidification of the oceans.

Initial work has begun at the Australian institute’s sea simulator in Townsville, Queensland, where different types of coral were picked shortly before their annual spawning and matched via IVF to create new hybrids. Scientists reared the coral larvae and then settled them to assess their growth into juveniles.

Coral from the central part of the Great Barrier Reef has been crossed with coral from the colder reaches of the southern reef to see if the resulting hybrid was more resilient in higher temperatures. Scientists are also looking at whether they can alter the microbial communities, the algae that live within coral tissue, so they can adapt to climate change.

It is hoped the research can speed up the evolutionary process so that corals can cope with the almost unprecedented rate of warming in the oceans. While corals can adapt to different temperatures, it usually takes thousands of years before they can evolve within gradually changing climates.

Dr Madeleine van Oppen, a senior principal research scientist at Aims, told Guardian Australia: “We can create genetic diversity and new genetic variations, and then let natural selection pick and do the rest.”

“We are trying to accelerate the process of what happens in nature, to help them to cope better. This is theoretically possible.

“We want to spend the next five years experimenting, to find out which manipulations work best. It’s an important area to invest in. We need these methods available in case we want to implement them. If we don’t, we may be too late if the situation does get bad.

“The health and coral cover of the reef has declined over the last decade, it’s a great concern.”

Scientists are increasingly looking at new ways to mitigate the impact of warming seas, such as shading corals, in case emissions are not radically cut to stave off the worst of climate change.

Unesco’s world heritage committee will consider whether to list the reef as “in danger” in June. On Monday, the Australian government submitted a report to Unesco that argued the listing was not justified due to its efforts to reverse the reef’s decline.

Credit: The Guardian

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