Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.
Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.
“We 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 conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked 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 is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.
“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for 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,” Glasser said.
The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.
The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.
Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.
“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.
“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”
CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.
Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).
The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.
“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.
He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.
“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”
Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).
The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.
“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.
Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.
Storm-ravaged banana plantation. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Rock that crashed onto the road. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Roseau Dam full to the brim. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Roseau Dam spilling sediment-laden waters. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Trees snapped like matches. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Toppled power pole blocking road. Photo Credit: Horst Michael Vogel
Small Island [Developing] States (SIDS) need financial aid to assist in coping with extreme weather linked to climate change, St. Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said, as his Caribbean country recovers from flooding and landslides triggered by Hurricane Matthew.
Matthew hit St Lucia with tropical storm strength winds on Wednesday, and has since intensified to become the most powerful hurricane to cross the Caribbean in nine years, threatening Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba with 150 mile-per-hour (240 kph) winds.
It is hard to say whether a particular storm has been affected by climate change, but some scientists say warmer seas will lead to more intense hurricanes. Rising seas linked to warming are also expected to hit tropical island nations hard.
In Paris last December, nearly 200 countries agreed on a binding global compact to reduce greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increases to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.
“We are paying a very heavy price down here, we are not net emitters, we do not have economies that are large enough to solve the problem ourselves and we are dependent on the world,” Chastanet told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
“Unfortunately we do not necessarily live in the most benevolent society.”
Chastanet said the Paris deal, which is closer to coming into effect after EU nations said they would fast-track ratification, was a “huge breakthrough” symbolically. However, he was not optimistic it would lead to financial help for countries most at risk.
“Countries are ratifying deals but they are not ratifying funds,” he said, calling the global climate deal a “contract of conscience.”
The prime minister said agriculture in St. Lucia, a volcanic island in the eastern Caribbean, had been badly hit by Matthew.
St. Lucia’s National Emergency Management Organization said interruptions to water supply after the storm were a serious concern.
St Lucia belongs to a group of 43 nations vulnerable to climate change that want the industrialized world to coordinate on financing to address climate change.
“We need to put a framework so we can take care of ourselves,” Chastanat said. “Hopefully at some point we would be able to get monies behind the global warming effect.”
A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations. The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.
The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary. Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.
President of the UN climate conference of parties (COP) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document. “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”
As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding. The announcement was greeted by cheers and excitement in the hall
Nearly 200 countries have been attempting to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being in 2020.
The chairman of the group representing some of the world’s poorest countries called the deal historic, adding: “We are living in unprecedented times, which call for unprecedented measures.
“It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”
As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding. The announcement was greeted by cheers and excitement in the hall. Nearly 200 countries have been attempting to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being.
The measures in the agreement included:
• To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century
• To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
• To review progress every five years
• $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
Analysis: The BBC’s Matt McGrath in Paris
The speeches and the cliches at the adoption of the Paris Agreement flowed like good champagne – success after all has many fathers! The main emotion is relief. The influence of the COP president, Laurent Fabius, cannot be overstated. His long diplomatic career gave him a credibility seldom matched in this arena. He used his power well.
The deal that has been agreed, under Mr Fabius, is without parallel in terms of climate change or of the environment. It sets out a clear long term temperature limit for the planet and a clear way of getting there. There is money for poor countries to adapt, there is a strong review mechanism to increase ambition over time. This is key if the deal is to achieve the aim of keeping warming well below 2C.
More than anything though the deal signifies a new way for the world to achieve progress – without it costing the Earth. A long term perspective on the way we do sustainability is at the heart of this deal. If it delivers that, it truly will be world changing.
Ahead of the deal being struck, delegates were in a buoyant mood as they gathered in the hall waiting for the plenary session to resume.
Mr Fabius was applauded as he entered the hall ahead of the announcement.
Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called the proposals unprecedented, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on negotiators to “finish the job”.
Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.
However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.
Observers say the attempt to impose emissions targets on countries was one of the main reasons why the Copenhagen talks in 2009 failed.
At the time, nations including China, India and South Africa were unwilling to sign up to a condition that they felt could hamper economic growth and development.
The latest negotiations managed to avoid such an impasse by developing a system of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
In these, which form the basis of the Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels, nations outline their plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.
An assessment published during the two-week talks suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the INDCs submitted by countries would only limit global temperature rise by 2.7C.
Nick Mabey, chief executive of climate diplomacy organisation E3G, said the agreement was an ambitious one that would require serious political commitment to deliver.
“Paris means governments will go further and faster to tackle climate change than ever before,” he said. “The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”
UN climate conference 30 Nov – 11 Dec 2015
COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties – will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.
As the highly anticipated Climate Change Conference begins today in Paris, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) lead Head on Climate Change and Sustainable Development is issuing a grave warning.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony says that “unless we can get the countries that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases to commit to more ambitious reductions, the Caribbean will be confronted with more extreme storms and hurricanes, more frequent and prolonged droughts, dangerous sea-level rise that will wash away roads, homes, hotels, and ports in every island; greater food insecurity and more acidic oceans that will kill our corals, damage our fish stock and negatively impact our tourism industries.”
Heads of State and Government, Ministers responsible for the Environment, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Scientists and other stakeholders are coming together in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to negotiate a new global climate change agreement.
The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS
Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.
However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.
“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie
The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.
According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.
Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.
Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. “What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers,” he noted.
To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.
Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize.
Developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it has been adopted by the CCCCC as a centrepiece of the effort to obtain reliable data as a basis for strategies for fighting climate change.
Dr. Leslie says the CREWS system represents a leap forward in research technology on climate change. The humble buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. The data collected on atmospheric and oceanic conditions such as oceanic turbidity, levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful elements and others are monitored from the Centre’s office in Belmopan and the data sent along to international scientists who can more concretely analyse it.
The South Water Caye CREWS station is one of two in Belize; the other is located at the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) on Calabash Caye in the Turneffe Atoll range. Other stations are located in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, with more planned in other key areas.
According to the CEO of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Vincent Gillet, this is an example of the kind of work that needs to be done to keep the coastal zone healthy and safeguard resources for Belize’s future generations.
A report released at the start of Coastal Awareness Week in Belize City urges greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the participation of the local managers of the coastal zone in a policy to combat those effects. Several recommendations were made, including empowering the Authority with more legislative heft, revising the land distribution policy and bringing more people into the discussion.
The report was the work of over 30 local and international scientists who contributed to and prepared it.
In receiving the CREWS equipment, the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Adele Catzim-Sanchez, sought to remind that the problem of climate change is real and unless it is addressed, Belizeans may be contributing to their own demise.
The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei, reported that the Union may soon be able to offer even more help with the planned negotiations in Paris, France, in 2015 for a global initiative on climate change, with emphasis on smaller states. Belize already benefits from separate but concurrent projects, the latter of which aims to give Belize a sustainable development plan and specific strategy to address climate change.
In addition, Dr. Leslie is pushing for even more monitoring equipment, including current metres to study the effect of terrestrial activity such as mining and construction material gathering as well as deforestation on the sea, where the residue of such activities inevitably ends up.
Natural events and human activities contribute to an increase in average temperatures around the world. Increases in greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the main cause. Our planet and our region are warming. This leads to a change in climate.
The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, but will be among the most severely impacted.
We are already experiencing its impacts. More frequent extreme weather events, such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean; the extreme droughts being experienced across the region, with severe consequences in places like Jamaica; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010. And further Climate Change is inevitable in the coming decades.
Inaction is VERY costly! An economic analysis focused on just three areas - increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure damages - could cost the region US$10.7 billion by 2025. That is more than the combined GDP of OECS Member States.
These risks can be managed by taking 'no regrets' actions - development actions we must take in any event. So we must build our infrastructure to withstand more intense weather events, select crops that can withstand extreme conditions and climate-influenced opportunistic pests, and transform our planning frameworks to improve our resilience.
Climate Change is a fossil-energy related problem. Fossil fuel consumption is a major driver of Climate Change. It also costs the Region US$37 Billion of its foreign exchange earnings and further reduces the potential for economic growth. Employing renewable forms of energy will allow us to tackle two big problems: climate change and economic competitiveness.
Download the 5 Things to Know About Climate Change in the Caribbean brochure.
The best way to deal with climate change is by integrating it into other development goals, says IlanKelman.
Climate change is a major challenge — and it sits among many other major challenges targeted by the post-2015 development goals.Biodiversity, health, education, energy and others influence and are influenced by climate change. So goals about them will also mean action on climate change.
Development goals that focus on the root causes of sustainability challenges bring people together; they also minimise the risk that goals will interfere with each other. But highlighting a single environmental driving factorsuch as climate change can be counter-productive.
Climate change action is usually separated into two categories, despite continual calls for merging them. The first is ‘mitigation’, which refers to reducing emissions and increasing the removalof greenhouse gases. The second is ‘adaptation’, which means reducing climate change’s adverse impacts and exploiting its positive impacts.Several of the currently proposed Sustainable Development Goals, outside of Goal 13 on climate change, already address both mitigation and adaptation.
By design, mitigation is addressed through Goals 7 on energy, 12 and 14 on resources, and 15 on land use, among others. Achieving sustainable resource management and preventing pollution necessarily means reducing fossil fuel dependency while increasing energy efficiency. And a goal to reduce all pollution, by definition, tackles greenhouse gases.Within pollution-prevention goals (such as 6 and 14), quantitative targets could be developed for a long list of specific emissions, including those associated with climate change. Having a goal thatselects only one, such as carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent, excludes many persistent organic pollutants and smog contributors.Similarly, growing and protecting trees is important for mitigation. Butconsidering all ecosystems together — as done by the goals on water, resources and land use — is more effective because it gives people sustainable livelihoods based on usingnatural resources without harming ecosystems. That addresses the root causes of sustainability problems and must necessarily achieve mitigation without excluding people or sacrificing other ecosystems for forests.
Adaptation predates climate concern
Adaptation involves actions such as managing waterways to avoid extreme floods and droughts, protecting built heritage sites against freeze–thaw cycles and helping people who cannot afford temperature control inside their homes to survive hot and cold spells. Such actions are needed irrespective of climate change.
“If development goals aim for adaptation only, without aiming for disaster risk reduction across all hazards, then resilience cannot be achieved.”
And such actions were indeed being implemented — as part of disaster risk reduction for all hazards — long before climate change became a major concern. If goals seek reduced disaster risk across all hazards, including climate-related ones, then adaptation is incorporated by definition.
For instance, rather than proposed Goal 13.1 being to “strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate induced hazards and natural disasters in all countries”, it could say“strengthen disaster risk reduction in all countries”. If development goals aim for adaptation only, without aiming for disaster risk reduction across all hazards, then resilience cannot be achieved.
What does this mean in practical terms? Hospitals ought to be built outside floodplainsthat are likely to expand due to climate change. But they could still collapse in the next earthquake — so they should be multi-hazard resilient, not just adapted to climate change. That requires goals encompassing, but extending beyond, adaptation.
Failing in Haiti
Are these concerns visible in reality? In a forthcoming paper, GodfreyBaldacchino and I use Haiti as an example of a climate change focus —nationally and internationally —failing to address underlying sustainability concerns. 
Before the 2010 earthquake, Haiti had prepared a National Adaptation Programme of Action for the UN and created a climate change division within the Ministry of the Environment. We can never know whether this focus on climate change distracted from preparedness for other hazards such as earthquakes.
But we do know that Haiti’s underdevelopment, and the exploitation of its people and natural resources by external powers, led to systemic, engrained disaster risk — including from climate-related hazards and hazard drivers.Poor governance, poverty, inequity and lack of livelihood choices contributed to that risk. We also know that solving chronic political problems of resource sharing, power relations and corruption could support disaster risk reduction, including adaptation.
How does this happen? When people have the power and resources to collaborate within their community, become involved in political and decision-making processes, and make their own life and livelihood choices, they often start calling for and implementing disaster risk reduction measures. Haiti has never been given that chance.
Conversely, mitigation and adaptation can contribute to development and sustainability, but never give the complete picture. They do not have to address the full range of drivers that fuel poverty, such as power relations and inequity. It would be just as counterproductive to aim tomake Haiti entirely earthquake-resistant without considering climate change.
Integration not isolation
We could write development goals for every hazard and hazard driver. But that detracts from goals supporting sustainability irrespective of any hazard or hazard driver.
Isolating climate change, making it a field unto itself with goals unto itself, can backfire by neglecting wider sustainability topics.
Placing climate change within the wider contexts of disaster, development and sustainability will tackle both adaptation and mitigation, but not at the expense of other concerns. No sector should neglect climate change and no sector should be dominated by climate change.
IlanKelman is a reader in risk, resilience and global health at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction and the Institute for Global Health, University College London, United Kingdom. He can be contacted viahttp://www.ilankelman.org/contact.html and @IlanKelman
A new study looking at 11,000 years of climate temperatures shows the world in the middle of a dramatic U-turn, lurching from near-record cooling to a heat spike.
Research released recently in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last Ice Age. It shows how the globe was cooling for several thousands of years until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century. Read more…