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Press Release – Leading marine experts from the Caribbean and the UK are joining up this week at a three-day workshop aiming to support the sustainable growth of marine economies in the region.
In the Caribbean region, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are set to benefit from the Commonwealth Marine Economies (CME) programme workshop.
The marine workshop, hosted by the British High Commission in Kingston Jamaica, is being attended by senior-level representatives from governments, regional agencies, external science agencies, academia and key donors.
The initiative is part of the UK Government funded CME programme, and follows on from similar consultation events held in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
Discussions will focus on what and how shared expertise, collaboration and co-ordination with existing regional projects can best help achieve sustainable blue growth.
Key themes to be addressed will include the opportunities and challenges Caribbean states face in developing their marine economies, including strengthening food security; enabling blue economies, safeguarding the marine environment; and supporting marine resilience.
The CME Programme was announced by the United Kingdom Government at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to provide technical support, services and expertise to Commonwealth Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Coastal States in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. The aim of this support is to promote safe and sustainable economic growth and alleviate poverty by harnessing maritime resources, preserving marine environments and facilitating trade.
David Fitton, UK High Commissioner, Jamaica said:
“The marine environment in the Caribbean is uniquely rich in biodiversity, economic potential and cultural importance. With these opportunities, come immense challenges of poverty, environmental degradation and food security. The UK seeks to increase prosperity by helping harness maritime resources and preserve the marine environment.
“This Programme plays an important part in this aim. Through data collection, knowledge-sharing and training, we aim to enable the sustainable development of marine economies in this region and the wider Commonwealth.”
The Programme is being delivered on behalf of the UK Government by a partnership of world-leading UK government marine expertise: the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).
A region-wide project, involving Caribbean and UK climate change experts, has been under way since last April. The project aims to produce a Marine Climate Change Report Card – a regional evaluation of the impact of climate change on the marine environment.
Cefas project lead and workshop delegate, Paul Buckley said:
“This the first time ever that experts in the Caribbean and the UK have worked together to co-ordinate existing knowledge on coastal and marine climate change impacts on Caribbean SIDS. It is clear from our knowledge sharing, that the economic impacts of climate change pose a severe challenge to the low-lying SIDS of the Caribbean. This work aims to help inform national and collaborative decision-making to help mitigate and manage the risks of marine climate change in the region.”
Other projects in the Eastern Caribbean include Sustainable Aquaculture and Fisheries in St Lucia, hydrographic surveying in St Vincent and Grenada and Radar Technology Tide Gauges and Training in St Lucia and elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean.
Credit: St. Lucia Times
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
As the world celebrates adoption of the Paris Agreement where 195 countries committed to action to address climate change, 20 countries from Latin American and the Caribbean continue to work towards a regional agreement to ensure environmental justice, access to environmental information and public participation in environmental governance.
Unfortunately, the negotiations progressed rather slowly as delegates engaged in discussions on the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2 of the Preliminary Document of the regional agreement. The slow pace of the meeting could be attributed to three Latin American countries who indicated that time did not permit them to engage in national consultations on the Preliminary Document and although they would participate in the discussions and not oppose the consensus that was achieved, they could not be part of the negotiations.
Nonetheless, civil society representatives at the meeting were pleased that many other countries were successful in engaging their citizens in the review of the Preliminary Document (the Preamble and Articles 1 – 10) and submitted these in a timely manner to the technical secretariat for the process, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) by the August 31st deadline. Special mention must be made of Chile and Peru that conducted face to face consultations with highly participatory standards in various cities in their respective countries. Additionally, several countries like Uruguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Panama, and Chile amongst others must be congratulated for announcing the importance of attaining a legally binding agreement by December 2016 when these ambitious negotiations are expected to culminate.
The LAC P10 process is known for its inclusive nature, this is primarily because the public has been involved in this participatory process from the onset. Five of the six elected Representatives of the Public were present as well as three independent experts, along with 30 civil society organizations from 18 countries.
In her address at the opening ceremony, Ms. Danielle Andrade- Goffe, one of the elected Main Representatives of the Public said, “Having a binding instrument on access rights will allow the region to advance the implementation of the Post-2015 Agenda, and particularly the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which many governments have already committed to”. Furthermore, she said, “This unique opportunity reflected in the document on one hand incorporates the best legislation in the region in the area of access rights and on the other hand looks to the future to establish capacity building partnerships and mechanisms that will allow us to face the challenges for the better implementation of access rights”.
Although the meeting did not achieve everything it intended to, the coordination by the government of Panama as well as the continued facilitation by ECLAC must be commended. The elected Representatives of the Public pledged their continued support to the process and encouraged signatory countries to carry out the requisite consultations needed to ensure that the 3rd meeting of the Negotiating Committee scheduled for April 2016 in Punta del Este, Uruguay progresses at a much faster pace because there is much work to be done if the
region is truly serious about advancing environmental governance. Additionally, non-signatories like Saint Lucia and many other Caribbean countries have an equally important role to play, as they are urged to sign on to the instrument before the next meeting. That way they can actively participate in the negotiation of a regional instrument geared at setting higher standards to improve how our rich yet fragile environment is protected for the benefit of present and future generations and not just a selected few.