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The first CARICOM Biogas Laboratory

CARICOM Biogas Laboratory

CARICOM Biogas Laboratory

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change, working on effective solutions and projects to combat the environmental impacts of climate change and global warming.

In its efforts, the CCCCC has been granted the support within the GIZ – REETA program to introduce a mobile biogas Laboratory at the University of Belize (UB) for use within CARICOM Members states and also by the private sector. The vision of the project meant that the CCCCC would purchase a facility to convert biomass into biogas by using locally supplied feedstock, consisting mostly of easy to harvest biomass, manure and organic waste.IMG_7833

The laboratory was recently delivered to Belize and after final installation of the lab, the opening ceremony was held on November 27, 2015. In the speeches delivered at the ceremony, the speakers highlighted the importance of promoting science for students. Well deserved recognition  was given to the CCCCC and GIZ REETA, which  supplied the Biogas Laboratory to UB.  The University was recognized for being a strong partner with the best capacity in Belize to utilize the Laboratory. UB committed to integrate the laboratory in its curriculum to ensure ‘the students of today could use the technology tomorrow.’ Dr. Andreas Täuber also mentioned that in the future, support by GIZ for UB might be on the agenda to support the implementation of a Renewable Energy Study programme.

Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director, CCCCC

Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director, CCCCC

At the Biogas Laboratory opening ceremony, the ribbon was cut by: Dr. Andreas Täuber, Head of GIZ REETA; Dr. Wilma Wright, Provost, UB; Dr. Pio Saqui, UB FST Dept.; Dr. Kennrick Leslie, Executive Director, CCCCC; and Henrik Personn,  Renewable Energy Expert  – Biogas Laboratory PM, CCCCC.

biogas produced by the laboratory inside plastic bag

biogas produced by the laboratory inside plastic bag

TNO Consultants, Henk Trap and Dr. Johan Van Groenestijn displayed biogas produced by the laboratory to visitors. Dr. Leslie highlighted the importance of the laboratory and applauded the efforts of the stakeholders to to make the best use of it in Belize.

Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

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

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.

Credit: IPS News Agency

Transformational Change Needed In Belize to Tackle Climate Change ~Dr. Kenrick Leslie

Official Dr. Leslie Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, gave a wide ranging address about the impact of climate change and climate variability on Belize at the University of Belize’s graduation ceremony last weekend. Dr. Leslie urged the graduates that by tackling climate change we can reduce or eliminate many of our current problems, including the threat of economic stagnation. He urged the graduates to think broadly and use their newly acquired training and knowledge to support and enhance sustainable development though cooperation and partnership with their community and country irrespective of their chosen field.

Dr. Leslie warned that Belize is experiencing the same types of Climate Change impacts as the rest of the world. However, the Central American country’s low population density make the impact of extreme conditions less pronounced, though more intense and frequent, compared to more densely populated areas.

He cited some noteworthy events that have occurred in unpopulated areas, namely:
1. The coastal community of Monkey River has been experiencing extreme coastal erosion for the last two decades. Residents have observed within their lifetimes the loss of the beachfront where they or their parents held functions such as weddings.
2. Similarly, we have seen serious degradation in our coral reef system due to warmer sea temperatures, mechanical damage from tropical cyclones, and sedimentation caused by more frequent and intense flooding.
3. Coastal aquifers are being compromised by over abstraction and sea level rise. Remedial measures such as the installation of reverse osmosis systems in San Pedro and Caye Caulker have been required. The same has occurred in Placencia where piping water under the lagoon from Big Creek is the method of supply.
4. Abnormally warmer conditions in 1999 and 2000 resulted in a pine bark beetle infestation which destroyed 75% of the pine forests in the country.
5. When the heavy rains returned a few years later the denuded soil was unable to absorb the excess water and led to one of the most devastating floods in the Stann Creek District claiming lives, destroying homes and washing away bridges. A permanent bridge was finally installed last year.

He says these conditions can be exacerbated by the further warming of the atmosphere and oceans, which makes adaptation an imperative for Belize and the Caribbean. Read Dr. Leslie’s January 2013 address at UB Commencement

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