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Preparing the country’s readiness and resilience in a time of climate change

A researcher checking out coral bleaching off the coast of Sint Maarten. (Nature Foundation File Photo)

Our country is surrounded by the deep blue Atlantic Ocean on one side the Caribbean Sea on the other.  Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as ours are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.  Global climate change is expected to increase natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and drought.

In addition, to climate change, population growth and urban development are increasing the vulnerability of SIDS to natural disasters, particularly in urban and coastal areas.  Country Sint Maarten has seen and experienced in the past damages caused by storm systems and inclement weather to those aforementioned areas.

At the end of January it was announced in a discussion at the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament that Curacao and Sint Maarten have not yet formally indicated whether they want to participate in the Kingdom Law proposal to ratify the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.  Aruba has responded that it would like to be a part of the Kingdom Law.

Climate Change is a Kingdom issue and should be addressed at that level, and Sint Maarten should be at the forefront in making sure that it receives the desired and serious attention it deserves.

The topic of climate change was also a discussion point at the recently concluded 15th Overseas Countries and Territories-European Union (OCT-EU) conference in Aruba which was attended by Sint Maarten’s Prime Minister William Marlin.

The effects of global climate change continue on a daily basis.  Each year the global community of nations are informed throughout the year about the impact human activities are having on our world.  One of the most recent developments is at the North Pole which saw for the month of January sea ice volume melting to a record low, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Agency (WMO).

Sea ice extent was the lowest on the 38-year-old satellite record for the month of January, both at the Arctic and Antarctic, according to data cited WMO from both the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and Germany’s Sea ice Portal operated by the Alfred-Wegener-Institut.

“The recovery period for Arctic sea ice is normally in the winter, when it gains both in volume and extent. The recovery this winter has been fragile, at best, and there were some days in January when temperatures were actually above melting point,” said recently David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme.

He added: “This will have serious implications for Arctic sea ice extent in summer as well as for the global climate system. What happens at the Poles does not stay at the Poles.”

In addition, the ice levels at the Antarctic are also at record lows, even thinner than expected for the summer season there.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement would be beneficial for country Sint Maarten with possible access to the Green Climate Fund, which is a mechanism established to assist SIDS and other countries in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Sint Maarten needs a “Climate Change Adapt-Mitigate” Plan of Action as our own very survival as a country depends on it.  Investments made in time will allow us to mitigate the changes for generations to continue to develop a vibrant and prosperous country for decades to come.  Let’s work towards preparing our country’s readiness and resilience in a time of climate change.

Credit: SOUALIGA Newsday

Caribbean warned to prepare for more severe storms

Caribbean warned to prepare for more severe storms

At an OECS climate change forum, environmentalists warn that frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions is likely to increase.

OECS member states have been urged to prepare for more extreme weather conditions and natural disasters as a result of climate change.

The warning came from Crispin d’Auvergne, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development Officer, who was a contributing panelist at an OECS climate change forum in Dominica.

The forum is part of the Vini Kozè (Let’s Chat) Series that engages citizens in discussion and debate on development opportunities and challenges facing the region.

According to Mr. d’Auvergne, a 2008 environmental study showed that while Saint Lucia sees an average of one to two Category 4 or Category 5 hurricanes per year, it is likely to increase to four or five hurricanes of that magnitude each year. Citing another study, Mr. d’Auvergne said rainfall in the Caribbean is expected to increase by 25 to 50 percent in the next five decades. These extreme weather patterns will become “the new normal” he said, adding that because the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions is likely to increase, the Caribbean should plan accordingly, preparing for more severe natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and floods.

After Dominica was devastated by Tropical Storm Erica in August 2015, the Minister for Health and Environment, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, said Dominica had never seen a disaster of such proportions in terms of damage to infrastructure and the loss of life. Infrastructural damage was estimated at $1.4 billion. Minister Darroux said the storm caused the government to revisit its land use, policies, and regulations.

The Global Environment Fund (GEF) has been helping to build resilience in vulnerable communities in Dominica through its Small Grants Program (SGP). National Coordinator of GEF-SGP in Dominica, Agnes Esprit, said GEF’s intervention is driven by the communities in which it works, and that makes for a more sustainable and people-led approach to projects.

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) was also represented at the forum. Regional Chairperson, Jamilla Sealy, said CYEN does tremendous advocacy, public awareness, and education on the environment and climate change targeted at young people and the general populace. The Caribbean Youth Environment Network was integrally involved in the climate justice campaign that championed the “1.5 to Stay Alive” initiative leading up to COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. Sealy said she is encouraged by the traction which the movement gained.

Master Scuba Diver Kenneth Samuel, who owns and operates Kenneth’s Dive Centre in St. Kitts has earned a living from the sea for over 50 years. He started off as a fisherman and transitioned into scuba diving. Now in his 70s, Mr. Samuel said he has experienced the effects of climate change which have now begun to affect his livelihood.

The OECS Public Education Forum Series (PEFS) runs until March 2017. The next forum will be held in Martinique on Feb. 24. The topic for discussion will be OECS Regional Integration with a focus on the free movement of persons, the harmonization of legislation, and investment opportunities across OECS member states.

The forum series is part of the public education component of the Economic Integration and Trade Program of the OECS, funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

The forum was held at the Fort Young Hotel in Dominica on Feb. 10.

Credit: St. Lucia Times

Heather-Lynn’s Habitat: US$15M Climate Change Project Announced

blochabitatcolor

Eight Caribbean countries will benefit from Japanese and United Nations financial assistance to help build their resilience to climate change.

On Thursday, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership was launched at the Radisson Aquatica Resort. It is a partnership between the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Vincent, St Lucia and Suriname are the countries benefiting from the project.

Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad, Masatoshi Sato, said his government envisaged that the project will assist the eight regional countries in developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the adopting of selected adaptation and mitigating technologies through various island projects.

He added that the US$15 million project to the eight countries was the forerunner to Japan fulfilling its COP 21 France pledge of approximately US$8.4 billion in public and private finance to developing countries.

“As such, Japan expects the project will enable the Caribbean countries to enhance their capacity to cope with climate change and natural disasters, thus assisting them in overcoming vulnerabilities particular to small island states,” the ambassador said.

He later told the Nation Japan had invited all CARICOM countries and the eight countries were the ones which had expressed an interest in the project.

“They are interested in making their countries more resilient to the impact of climate change,” he added.

Meanwhile, UNDP’s Resident Representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Stephen O’Malley, told the audience the project aimed to ensure that barriers to the implementation of climate resilient technologies were addressed and overcome in a participatory and efficient manner.

“There are many lessons we can learn from Japan and from each other and this project provides ample opportunity for the region to take advantage of Japanese experiences and knowledge, particularly as it relates to energy,” he said.

Also speaking was Director of the UNDP regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Hub, Rebeca Arias, who said December’s Paris agreement must be the starting point of a new era of climate action.

“It must permanently shift the global development trajectory towards one that is zero carbon and risk-informed,” she said.

Arias added that the project will facilitate climate mitigation and adaptation activities in the eight countries and will help them move towards “a green, no emission development pathway”.

Credit: Nation News

Japan and UNDP launch climate change project in eight Caribbean countries

undp_japan.jpg

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

The UK to launch Caribbean infrastructure partnership

Source: livemint

Source: livemint

 The English speaking Caribbean is set to benefit from 300 million pounds in grant funding to support infrastructure development.

British Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement in a joint sitting of Jamaica’s parliament on September 30, 2015.

“I’m launching a new UK, Caribbean infrastructure partnership to build real tangible things that will make a difference for people across the Caribbean. Roads, bridges, ports, critical economic infrastructure that will set the foundations for growth and prosperity and in turn reduce poverty while helping the region to become more resilient to the risks of Climate Change. Just think about what this could deliver, hundreds of kilometer of roads to link up vital markets. Bridges to unite remote communities. New energy projects to power growth and vital defenses to protect coastal communities. Let me be clear £300 million is not soft loads, not tide aid. It is cash grants.”

Cameron says Caribbean leaders will decide how to spend the funds. He also announced an additional 60 million pounds in financing.

“Today I can also announce 30 million pounds for new programs to help attract investments and improve governance and 30 million pounds to help make your hospital more resilient to natural disasters. We need to make sure that if a hurricane strikes, crucial health centers can remain operational to treat the wounded and together this represents a quadrupling of Britain support. It will make us the largest donor to the region. It will create jobs and save lives and you can take it literally as a concrete statement of my commitment to the Caribbean.”

The British Prime Minister adds he hopes the Caribbean will make use of US 9 billion in climate adaptation financing that the UK will provide over the next five years.

“We hope this money can help unlock the global climate deal and giving the vulnerability of small island state that face the risk of devastation from climate change, a fair proportion should be sent, I hope will be spent right here supporting some of the UK’s oldest friends to prepare and provide for the future. When I met Caribbean leaders just a few days ago at the United Nations General Assembly. They made it clear to me directly, just how vital the climate deal is to them. So I pledge to work in partnership with them and other like minded states to secure a bold and ambitious deal in Paris later this year.”

Cameron also revealed that the UK will spend £25 million on building a prison in Jamaica so that foreign criminals in the UK can be sent home to serve sentences in the Caribbean.

More than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions.

Officials say the foreign aid-funded deal could save taxpayers £10m a year when transfers begin in 2020.

Credit: The Daily Observer

Reinsurers call for action at climate change summit

Politicians must act to cap global warming when they meet at a United Nations summit at the end of the year as the financial and humanitarian consequences of natural catastrophes become ever clearer, reinsurers meeting at an industry conference said.

The $600 billion reinsurance industry helps insurance companies pay damage claims from hurricanes, floods or earthquakes and can help people and companies get back on their feet after a disaster.

The UN’s climate boss warned this week that national promises to cut emissions so far would cap warming at an unacceptably high level, heightening concerns in the insurance industry about politicians’ lack of resolve.

“Definitely we expect political courage to move in a direction that shows responsibility towards future generations and a certain interest in defending the sustainability of this planet,” Swiss Re’s Chief Executive, Michel Lies, told a news conference.

Swiss Re data shows natural disasters caused an average $180 billion in economic damage per year over the last decade, of which 70 percent was uninsured.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said big natural catastrophes can also lead to cuts in sovereign credit ratings — making it more expensive for governments to borrow money — with Latin America and the Caribbean most at risk.

These conclusions should help concentrate minds at the climate talks starting in Paris on Nov. 30, reinsurers said.

“What we can bring to the table is a credible price tag for the decisions that are taken or not taken, making sure everybody understands that in the short term you may not take a decision but you will definitely pay a price in the long term,” Lies said.

Weather researchers say global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms. Warming needs to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most devastating consequences in the form of droughts and rising sea levels, scientists say.

“Even if this goal is not fully reached, every step in this direction is better than no result at all,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of Geo Risks Research at reinsurer Munich Re.

In the meantime, there must be increasing focus on preventive measures such as flood defences that can help dampen the rise in insurance premiums in the medium to long term, Hoeppe said.

Insurers and Group of Seven industrialized countries are working to expand the availability of insurance to an additional 400 million people in developing countries considered at high risk.

“Climate change is happening, no question,” said XL Group’s Chief Executive, Mike McGavick.

“Insurers and reinsurers have to be at the forefront of transferring that risk,” McGavick said.

Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch

Climate Change vulnerabilities on SIDS can be addressed through partnerships!

Climate change poses a threat to survival in the Southwest Pacific, and in most of the small islands around the globe. Photo: FAO/Sue Price

The global challenges facing the small island developing States (SIDS) are the international community’s collective responsibility, today stated the top United Nations official at the Security Council.

“Combatting climate change, promoting sustainable development and addressing the vulnerabilities of SIDS will demand partnership, capacity and leadership,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who recalled that the SAMOA Pathway is here “to guide us.”

Last year’s Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa increased global attention on their contributions to sustainable development – but also on their unique vulnerabilities, Mr. Ban reminded to the Council members, who were meeting for an unprecedented debate about the situation of these countries.

From traditional armed conflict to transnational crime and piracy, illicit exploitation of natural resources, climate change and climate-related natural disasters and uneven development, small island developing States face a range of peace and security challenges, according to the concept note provided by New Zealand, which holds the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of July.

Caribbean SIDS, for example, are vulnerable to drug-trafficking and gang-related violence, noted the Secretary-General, while unreported and unregulated fishing undermine local economies. Through its Maritime Crime Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is actively engaged to help these countries in these areas.

“Taken together with the broader vulnerabilities faced by many of these States communities, these challenges can disproportionately affect national stability, fuel conflict across regions and ultimately have an impact on the maintenance of international peace and security,” adds the Security Council concept note.

For the Secretary-General, the first priority must be to support these States in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

“Second, we need a post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals that address the needs of SIDS,” he continued.

At the recent Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, which took place from July 13 to 16, it was encouraging that the concerns of [that group of countries] were reflected, including in critical areas such as debt, trade, technology and Official Development Assistance, Mr. Ban noted.

“Third, we need a meaningful and universal global climate agreement in Paris in December,” stressed the UN chief, as small island developing States are on the front lines of climate change.

“Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu is only the latest in a long string of devastation that SIDS have endured and will continue to endure as long as climate change is not adequately addressed,” he warned, underscoring that Caribbean countries sometimes experience as many as five hurricanes in a season.

Rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters exacerbate the conditions leading to community displacement and migration, threatening to increase tensions over resources and affect domestic and regional stability, the Secretary-General went on to say.

“Leading by example,” many of these countries have been accelerating their own transition to renewable energy to secure a sustainable energy future. But, to support SIDS in their actions to combat climate change and adapt to its impacts, “a politically credible trajectory for mobilizing the pledged $100 billion dollars per year by 2020” is needed, he explained.

The Green Climate Fund will need to be up and running before the Climate Conference in Paris in December, but a “meaningful, universal climate agreement” must be adopted, concluded the Secretary-General.

Credit: UN News Centre

Donors replenish Global Environmental Facility, but biodiversity is still underfunded

Global-Environmental-Facility

US$4.43 billion has been pledged by 30 donor countries for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support developing countries’ efforts over the next four years to prevent degradation of the global environment.

The announcement, made at the Fourth Meeting for the Sixth Replenishment of GEF Trust Fund, held in Geneva, Switzerland, 16-17 April 2014, further stated that the funding will support projects in over 140 countries to tackle a broad range of threats to the global environment. These threats include climate change, deforestation, land degradation, extinction of species, toxic chemicals and waste, and threats to oceans and freshwater resources.

The GEF is the main global mechanism to support developing countries’ to take action to fulfill their commitments under the world’s major multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“This is a significant development. We welcome the efforts of the GEF Secretariat and the commitments of donor governments to replenish the GEF capital and thus allow the GEF to continue to serve as the financial mechanism of the CBD and other MEAs,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD Executive Secretary. “This will ensure that the GEF maintains its support for developing countries and countries with economies in transitions to support the implementation of their commitments under the CDB, in particular the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for 2011-2020 and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the updated national biodiversity strategies and action plans and associated national targets.”

“However, this still serves as a reminder that donor countries failed to fulfil the target set at the Eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) in Hyderabad, India, to double the international financial flows by 2015 relative to the 2006-2010 average,” underlined Dias.

“This means that we have missed the opportunity to significantly increase the investment on biodiversity to increase the efforts for achieving the implementation of the Aichi Targets,” said Mr. Dias. “This limited effort of multilateral funding, which represents a 30% increase over the baseline of 2006-2010, puts undue pressure on bilateral funding, domestic funding and private funding to compensate for this shortcoming to meet the estimated funding gap if we hope to achieve the agreed Aichi Targets by 2020,” he said.

The conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity can provide solutions to a range of societal challenges. For example, protecting ecosystems and ensuring access to ecosystem services by poor and vulnerable groups are an essential part of poverty eradication.

Failing to pay due attention to the global biodiversity agenda risks compromising the capacity of countries to eradicate poverty and to enhance human well-being, as well as their means to adapt to climate change, reduce their vulnerability to extreme natural disasters, to ensure food security, to ensure access to water and to promote access to health.

“Without adequate funding for the global biodiversity agenda the continual availability of biological resources and ecosystems services will be compromised and impact the capacity of the business sector to continue to operate and supply the market with products, services and employment,” said Mr. Dias. “I encourage all countries to ramp up their contributions complementary to the GEF Trust Fund to ensure a better and more sustainable future for us all.”

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties up to now, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 166 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol. The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal. For more information visit: http://www.cbd.int.

For additional information, please contact: David Ainsworth on +1 514 287 7025 or at david.ainsworth@cbd.int; or Johan Hedlund on +1 514 287 6670 or at johan.hedlund@cbd.int

Credit: United Nations Decade on Biodiversity

OECS Secretariat Premieres Climate Change TV Series

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat, a sub-region within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), will launch a twelve-part Television series on climate change between 6pm and 8pm today, Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

The Television series, which was recently completed with the assistance of a Saint Lucia-based consulting firm, is the first of its kind for the OECS Secretariat and is expected to contribute to awareness building efforts of an OECS-USAID Climate Change Project aimed at “Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC).

The launch ceremony will take place at “Our Planet”, a state of the art cinema theatre in downtown Castries and the agenda will include the screening of selected episodes of the series, performances on climate change related issues, brief remarks from officials and a cocktail reception. Nearly 60 invited guests are expected to attend the ceremony, representing local, national, regional and international agencies involved in environmental conservation and climate change related work in the OECS sub-region.

This novel TV series produced by the OECS Secretariat features climate change impacts and solutions, with an emphasis on issues related the water, tourism and agricultural sectors, as well as highlights on vulnerabilities to coastal areas, and increased exposure to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

The series is part of the awareness component of the USAID-funded climate change project (RRACC), and is expected to generate increased curiosity on climate change and provide tips on how the public can make individual choices that will help them better cope with climate change related issues.

The RRACC Project is a five-year development project which was launched in 2011 to assist OECS governments with building resilience through the implementation of climate change adaptation measures. RRACC will build an enabling environment in support of policies and laws to reduce vulnerability; address information gaps that constrain issues related to climate vulnerabilities; make interventions in freshwater and coastal management to build resilience; increase awareness on issues related to climate change and improve capacities for climate change adaptation.

**This blog is a modified statement from the OECS.

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