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“A lot of the damage now comes from extreme precipitation. So that translates into floods, landslides, loss of life, loss of livelihoods”
As if hurricanes were not menacing enough, small Caribbean islands risk losing their entire way of life unless they urgently strengthen defences against a raft of future disasters, according to a climate change official.
“You don’t even need to have a hurricane to get extensive damage .. a tropical storm or depression, it comes and sits over a particular island or territory and it deposits rain,” said Ulric Trotz, deputy director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
“For us small island nations, basically everything comes to a stop. As a region, we are very exposed to climate risk .. and our projections show that this will be exacerbated,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Trotz – whose organisation coordinates the entire region’s response to climate change – said that along with the annual hurricane season, the Caribbean now faces extreme weather each year, from flooding to landslides.
Fishing and farming communities living in coastal areas and the tourism industry – vital for Caribbean economies – often bear the brunt of damage and loss of income.
Caribbean nations can now face as much rainfall as they would normally get over a period of months in the space of a few days, with drainage systems unable to cope, Trotz said.
“A lot of the damage now comes from extreme precipitation. So that translates into floods, landslides, loss of life, loss of livelihoods,” said Trotz, a science advisor.
“We have some serious concerns about the viability of Caribbean life as we know it.”
One key way to make coastal areas more resilient to storm surges and rising sea levels, linked to global warming, is to protect marine, coral and mangrove ecosystems, Trotz said.
Reefs act like breakwaters reducing wave strength, while salt-tolerant mangroves can buffer against hurricane winds and storm surges and cut wave height.
“As far as the human body is concerned, the healthier the body is, the more resilient it will be in terms of dealing with some of the threats, diseases,” Trotz said.
“So the same principle applies here, that the healthier our ecosystems, the healthier our reefs, wetlands and mangroves are, the more they will be able to resist some of the impacts of climate change,” he said.
Across the Caribbean, scores of projects are underway to restore battered coral reefs, establish artificial reefs, replant damaged mangroves and place millions of acres of marine areas under protected areas by 2020.
Some Caribbean nations also face water shortages exacerbated by longer droughts linked to climate change, Trotz said.
In several islands of the Grenadines, a pilot seawater desalination project using solar power is underway.
In Guyana, to better cope with drought and changing rainy seasons, rice farmers are using water harvesting and drip irrigation systems, and are receiving short-term weather forecasts allowing them to better decide when to plant crops.
But more defensive action is hampered by a lack of funds.
Despite the United Nations Green Climate Fund, set up in 2010 to help poor countries tackle climate change, red tape means many small island nations are unable to access funding.
“The bottom line is that we don’t have the resources,” Trotz said. “It’s not that we don’t have any idea about how we need to build resilience.”
It can take from nine months to up to eight years to get funds from donors, Trotz said.
“The longer you delay, a lot of the assumptions you have made in the first instance are no longer valid .. we have to find some way of shortening that whole process.”
Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation News
When powerful storms tear through the islands of the Caribbean, it’s often fishing families and famers in coastal villages who bear the brunt of flooding and damage – and it’s those same people who can help lead climate change adaptation, say experts.
Across the region, decision makers are realising a top-down approach isn’t always the way forward, and often those who live and work in high-risk areas – whether they grow coffee, run small businesses or work as tour guides – best understand the particular issues they face, and have ideas about how to tackle them.
Those local insights can positively shape policy at a national level in the climate-vulnerable tropical island nations, a discussion hosted by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) heard this week.
“It’s saying ‘this is a two-way street, a two-way conversation’,” said Will Bugler, a senior consultant at Acclimatise, who gave a rundown of Caribbean climate change adaptation tools and research.
But local efforts alone are not enough, and communities need strong links with regional and national governments so they can draw on their expertise, influence and spending power.
The problem is that linking up groups with different levels of understanding – and sometimes competing interests – can make hammering out climate resilience strategies a long and frustrating process, according to a report published by CDKN.
Today, a raft of sophisticated new technologies harnessing high-quality data on climate and weather patterns are being used to develop community vulnerability assessments and help companies, governments and development banks inject climate change resilience into their plans.
Sharon Lindo, policy advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), said Grenada was one country now consulting CCORAL, an online tool highlighting climate change vulnerabilities, before making policy decisions. Some regional banks are using it as part of their risk assessment processes, she added.
“What that showed us was that just a small incremental cost makes the investment climate-resilient,” Lindo told the webinar.
While these tools can be used to track multiple scenarios – such as the chance of storm damage, drought or even dengue outbreaks – there are still gaps in the data, as some of the tiny islands scattered across the Caribbean lack comprehensive monitoring.
A planned project to install additional monitoring stations could start to fill in the picture, said Dr. Ulric Trotz, CCCCC’s Deputy Director and Science Advisor, who highlighted the need for well-documented environmental data to go with meteorological information.
“If we want to really target agriculture… and watershed management appropriately, we need to also have stations within areas on these smaller islands to really capture that data that can feed into the model and give a more robust analysis,” said Trotz.
And in climate-vulnerable countries, it seems you’re never too young to learn about the impact climate change may have on your future. A pilot project in Belize is trying to integrate climate change into the curriculum for schoolchildren, said Trotz.
“Individual countries could start initiatives in schools. We’re particularly keen on … introducing a system of school gardening right across the region,” he said.
With this, students could find out about new techniques like drip irrigation, greenhouse cultivation and aquaponics, he added.
Credit: Thomas Reuters Foundation News
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Caribbean Climate Podcast, a series of interviews with climate change experts and activists about key issues and solutions. In this special edition we talk with Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, about his bold proposal to re-orient climate financing.
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Enjoy The Podcast in Segments
Question 1: You recently proposed comprehensive changes to the way we approach climate change mitigation and adaptation in terms of climate financing, policy and programmes. What motivated this proposal?
Question 2: You point to inherent and consequential differences in Mitigation and Adaptation outcomes as the key reason for reimagining climate change responses. Why is this so important for the Caribbean, and the world in general?
Question 3: You point to energy as principal entry point for private sector investment, what primes this sector to spur the critical changes you call for?
Question 4: You call for private sector engagement both locally and globally given the considerable risks and high costs associated with Adaptation that is often prohibitive for the private sector in the developing world alone. Why would the private sector, say in the United Kingdom, be interested in providing funds for Adaptation in Belize? Is this the same scenario with mitigation?
Question 5: Given that distinct difference, how do we re-imagine the allocation of climate change resources such as the US100 billion per year Green Climate Fund?
Question 6: Your proposal could transform the climate change response landscape and potentially heighten private sector interest and investment in “Mitigation” without GCF’s resources crowding out private funding. But how do we deal with Adaptation funding more broadly?
Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), says calls for a transformation of Green Climate Fund resources that could optimize and efficiently direct private investment and limited public resources. Peruse his proposal below and listen to his exclusive interview on the inaugural edition of Caribbean Climate Podcast.
The inherent differences in the nature of Mitigation and Adaptation outcomes is consequential and should be a central feature of comprehensive climate change policy decisions, policies and programmes. While they both result in the production of a public good, that derived from mitigation (decreased carbon) is a global public good, and conversely, that derived from Adaptation is a local public good. Indeed, Adaptation is very country specific, hence the localized nature of the benefits derived therefrom. As a result, the product from Mitigation can be commoditised and traded on the local and/or global markets. This paves the way for international private sector entities, to identify profitable pro-environmental opportunities and invest in global action that facilitates Low Carbon Development (Mitigation). Mitigation’s ability to generate private sector opportunities distinguishes it from Adaptation. Even at the local level, Adaptation fails to attract private sector investment, because the local public good it produces is not a marketable commodity. By implication, Adaptation invariably warrants public sector intervention. Specifically, more robust public spending on infrastructure, healthier ecosystems, better health systems, etc. These crucial differences underscore the existence of a significantly more favourably global private sector investment environment for mitigation relative to Adaptation, the bulk of which will remain the responsibility of the public sector.
So significant and consequential is the divergent investment potential (public and private) of Adaptation and Mitigation, the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Climate finance called for a significant proportion of the US$100 billion per year to be mobilized for the Green Climate Fund to come from the private sector. This private sector engagement must operate both locally and globally given the considerable risks and high costs associated with Adaptation that could prove prohibitive for the private sector in the developing world. Some observers view this approach skeptically, often wondering, why would the private sector, say in the United Kingdom, be interested in providing funds for Adaptation in Belize? These are highly plausible concerns, but the case for Mitigation is totally different. Unlike Adaptation, both local and foreign private sector capital can be mobilized for investment in mitigative actions in any part of the world. Building low carbon economies is the business of the future and lends itself to global investment. With this in view, I propose a re-imagination of GCF resource allocation.
Considering the unlikely flow of the necessary resources from the private sector for Adaptation purposes and a clear pro-environmental incentive for global and local private sector engagement through mitigation, most of the GCF allocation should be used to support adaptation actions. GCF resources should not be used to “implement” actual mitigation actions, namely renewables, efficiency measures, among others. I strongly suggest that GCF resources be used to help countries prepare an environment for robust mitigation efforts, such as energy transformation – policy and legislative reform – and also to prepare sound investment portfolios with full-fledged, costed and ready to implement proposals for the transformation of the energy sector. I imagine GCF resources being used to incentivize investment in these actions. The approach I have articulated will create an enabling landscape marked by a favourable investment climate, an incentivizing environment, and a preponderance of credible and ready to go transformational programmes. One can anticipate such a landscape to yield heightened private sector interest and investment in Mitigation without GCF’s resources crowding out private funding, while leaving crucial adaptation efforts – which does not readily attract private funding – largely underfunded. Put simply, the GCF should be reengineered to support Adaptation directly, create the environment for private sector investment in Mitigation, and leave actual implementation of the latter to the private sector.
Dealing with Adaptation funding more broadly is a bit less straightforward, but, the “integration” of climate risks into national development planning and budgetary processes, as well as crafting a budgetary support modality as a mechanism for adaptation funding could result in some feasible solutions. How do we approach this integration when considering a reasonable modality for adaptation financing? I propose that countries should “integrate” climate risk into national development plans and national budgets to access adaptation funding. This integration should include quantification of both the impact and additional costs of mitigating those impacts (Adaptation costs).
We in the Caribbean already have a tool to facilitate this integration – the Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation TooL (CCORAL) – that is adaptable to other contexts. Using this approach, the normal envisaged expenditure in the budget (e.g. upgrading a coastal road) becomes the country baseline contribution to the “adaptation package” (i.e. what the country would have spent in any case on that action). The incremental costs identified by the risk management analysis (Adaptation costs) can then be accessed from the GCF. The capacity building issue here then becomes mainly one of how countries gain the capacity to “integrate climate risk” into their national development plans and yearly budgetary processes. This allows countries to clearly define their national adaptation resource needs across all sectors. Once this is done, it is a question of the modalities for accessing these funds from the GCF, implementing, monitoring and reporting under the national umbrella. The essential point here is that this approach provides an avenue for channeling adaptation funds to countries, through a “budgetary support” process (by implication through the Ministry of Finance), and precludes the need for setting up a parallel external process for accessing and utilizing Adaptation funds in our countries that are already confronting challenges associated with scarce human resources.
We have supported extensive field laboratory work for a contingent of students, faculty and support staff from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), UWI Cave Hill over the past ten years. The field laboratories are held in Belize, one of the region’s most diverse ecological settings, and afford the students an opportunity to put into action the range of tools they are learning, and observe the relationships between scientific theory and the measurement of critical variables and parameters. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre looks forward to welcoming the 11th contingent of students in 2015!
Below is a summary of current CERMES MSc student Ryan Zuniga's reflection on his research experience. Ryan is now interning with the Centre.
After fulfilling the classroom requirements for my degree, I was anxious and excited to enter the world of
research. My topic; “Developing a Forest Fire Indicator for Southern Belize”, was selected after nine months of deliberation and several disregarded potential topics.
My research was to be carried out in conjunction with the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, an NGO that has been working in my study area (southern Belize) for several years. This NGO has been making numerous efforts to address several terrestrial environmental issues including poaching of endangered species found in their management area (Maya Golden Landscape), the sustainable use of forest resources by buffer communities and incidences of forest fires as a result of escaped agricultural fires known as milpa burning.
The data collection process commenced almost immediately after the proposal was approved. It was supported by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) who had an interest in the research topic, and therefore gave me the opportunity to conduct my research as an intern at the Centre. Dr. Ulric Trotz , Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the Centre, was the overhead supervisor, and Mr. Earl Green, Project Manager, was my immediate project supervisor at the Centre.
The data required to carry out the study consists of three main parameters, meteorological data (humidity, daily maximum temperatures and precipitation), records of fire incidences and climate projections and modelled data for southern Belize.
The data collection process was filled with many “give up” moments and just as many “I can do this for the rest of my life” moments. However, what stood out to me the most is the hospitality that was shown to me by the people during the interview process. My interviews were focused on the farmers of the Maya villages in Southern Belize, namely Medina, Golden stream, Tambran and Indian Creek. By societal modern standards these farmers can be described as poor, or living at one step away from poverty. However, the farmers will tell you that difficult times or “hard life” as they refer to it are few and far in between for them. While working with them I was more often than not greeted with a smile, and a cup of home grown coffee, that welcomed me into their humble homes. Generally consisting of hammocks, a few plastic chairs and a wooden table these homes were filled with laughter and happiness. This experience I’m sure will stay with me for the rest of my career.
In the end I was only able to gather a fraction of the data that I had proposed, so much for that ground breaking research! However I was able to adopt an index that is identical to what I had hoped to achieve. The index was implemented by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Trinidad and Tobago and was shared with me by TNC’s Director of Fire Management. Ya’axche has already pledged to provide the communities with the necessary equipment needed for the index to be used properly and be effective in reducing the incidences of escaped fires.
Peruse the October 2014 edition of the CERMES Connections here.
Credit: CERMES Connections