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CARICOM-UN Will Raise Funds to Help Rebuild Hurricane-Hit Caribbean Nations

Limited resources and lack of funding, many hurricane-torn regions in the Caribbean are finding it hard to recoup

With limited resources and lack of funding, many hurricane-torn regions in the Caribbean are finding it hard to recoup.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will host a conference to assist the hurricane-torn Caribbean nations to help them become more “resilient” in future climate-related calamities.

The conference to be held in New York on Nov. 22 will raise funds to provide “technical and financial assistance to meet that goal,” Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, said during a press conference.

With limited resources and lack of funding, many hurricane-torn regions in the Caribbean are finding it hard to recoup.

“The currents of successive category 5 hurricanes signals a dangerous change in the intensity and frequency of climate change-related storms, heralds the advent of the new normal,” LaRocque said.

“All these disasters” offer an opportunity for the affected countries to “become the first climate change resilient countries in the world,” the CARICOM general secretary added.

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, also urged for concessionary funding needed for the hurricane-hit regions. Using “artificial impediments” such as “per capita income” are “an act of aggression against small island developing states,” Browne said.

Browne called out the hypocrisy of naming Caribbean countries as “wealthy” when a vast majority of the countries in the region are “the poorest in the world, maybe second only to Africa,” he said.

Further adding, in order to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, the countries responsible for climate change should pay the price.

“The money should come from the heavy polluters, those who are contributing to the warming of the planet,” and those who continue to use fossil fuels, he further added.

A Caribbean peace conference held in Barbados, during the first week of October also discussed the perils of climate change and how developing nations are paying a heavy price for the capitalistic ventures of nearby developed nations which “increases the risk of natural disasters that can wipe out Caribbean economies by wreaking havoc on infrastructure and by causing significant loss of life.”

Attended by the representatives of Barbados, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and the U.S. Peace Council, the conference members noted that how they are being subjected ” to private sector dominance and the reversal of the social gains in health, education, public housing and transportation, adversely impacting the quality of life of the Caribbean working people.”

Credit: Carib Flame

Designation as “special areas” in the Caribbean

The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) has the greatest concentration of plant and animal species in the Atlantic Ocean Basin.  Yet these precious, and often irreplaceable, natural resources are disappearing at an astounding rate. The vast majority of all species are threatened by habitat loss or modification in addition to unsustainable practices such as over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution. These same habitats are often the main source of food and income for many coastal communities.

The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) of the Cartagena Convention, is a regional agreement for biodiversity management and conservation in the Wider Caribbean Region, in existence since 1990. It is managed by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and it became international law in 2000.  It aims to protect critical marine and coastal ecosystems while promoting regional co-operation and sustainable development.

To date, sixteen countries from the region have ratified the Protocol: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France (through its Departments of Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Saint-Barthélémy and Saint-Martin), Grenada, Guyana, The Netherlands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint-Eustatius and Sint Maarten), Panama, Saint-Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Venezuela.

Since 2012 SPAW has created a regional network of protected areas (PAs) or key conservation sites listed by the member governments under the Protocol. Under this network these sites benefit from a cooperation programme supported by SPAW, which includes: increased recognition and awareness as places of importance locally, regionally and globally; increased local and national pride resulting in national responsibility to support management; higher visibility with the possible result of increases in employment opportunities and income due to increased tourism marketing of the area; grants and technical assistance provided through SPAW; opportunities for enhancing capacity, management, protection and sustainability; and, opportunities for support  of species conservation, pollution control and sustainable finance.

Countries which are party to the Protocol are invited to apply for their protected areas to be so listed using online forms.  To be selected, sites must satisfy a rigorous set of ecological as well as cultural and socio-economic criteria.  Applications are reviewed by the UN SPAW secretariat as well as by external experts prior to their approval by the Protocol’s scientific committee and it’s biennial Conference of Parties (COP). On 9th December 2014, in Cartagena, Colombia, the Protocol’s Eighth COP approved thirteen new protected areas:

  • The Regional Natural Park of wetlands between the Rivers León and Suriquí, Colombia
  • The Saba National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Man O War Shoal Marine Park (Sin t Maarten), the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Reserve “Etang des Salines”, Martinique, France
  • The Reserve “Versants Nord de la Montagne Pelée, Martinique, France
  • The Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize
  • La Caleta Submarine Park, Dominican Republic
  • National Park Jaragua, Dominican Republic
  • Reserve “Los Haitises”, Dominican Republic
  • National Park “Sierra de Bahoruco”, Dominican Republic
  • Tobago Cays Marine Park, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • “Molinière Beauséjour” Marine Protected Area, Grenada

These protected areas vary greatly in description and characteristics.  However they all meet the criteria for listing under SPAW.  These include ecological value, and cultural and socio-economic benefits.  A quick look at two of the areas listed illustrates this.

The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, established in 1996 in the Eastern Caribbean, is only 27.5 square kilometres in area and extends around the entire island of Saint Eustatius, from the high water line to 30 metre depth contour. It protects a variety of habitats, including pristine coral reefs and 18th century shipwrecks. It includes two no-take zones (reserves) as well as general use zones and designated anchoring zones for large commercial ships.  There is high biodiversity in its coral reefs and a wide variety of tropical reef creatures resides in and around these reefs as well, including the commercially important lobster and conch, key predators such as sharks and the endangered Sea Horses.  Three species of sea turtles (all of them are endangered or critically endangered species) nest regularly on the island’s Zeelandia Beach – the leatherback, the greenand the hawksbill. Dolphins and large whales regularly visit and can often be heard as they migrate through the Marine Park between January and April.   A number of birds live almost exclusively in the open ocean environment, using St Eustatius as a breeding ground or migratory stop over, such as the Audubon’s Shearwater Puffins and Red Billed Tropicbirds.

St Eustatius is also site of Statia Terminals, an oil transhipment facility, including one of the deepest mooring stations for super tankers in the world, located immediately south of the northern marine reserve on the West coast and which has been in operation since 1982 and expanded in 1993. It employs 10 per cent of the island’s population.  During the 18th century, this was one of the busiest ports in the world, hence the presence of shipwrecks within the marine park up to today.

In contrast, the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), established in 2000, in Belize is 405 square kilometres in area and has three adjacent and nearby human settlements: Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda.  It is unique along the coast of Central America in lagoon system size and the number of in-shore mangrove islands. It is in relatively pristine condition and includes coastal and tidal wetlands, marine lagoons, and mangrove islands with associated shallow banks and fringing coral reefs. Almost all of the coastal and island vegetation, including mangroves, is intact.  Maintaining coastal ecosystem functions and natural resource values, including water quality and nursery habitats of the area, is important in order to protect biodiversity and traditional fishers’ livelihoods.  It is a major breeding and nursery area for juveniles of many species. Threats are expected to increase as the area is attracting more visitors for fly-fishing and sailing.

The SPAW Protocol and the listing of Marine Protected Areas is driven by the need to first recognize sites of great regional and international ecological and socio-economic value and then put measures in place to protect and conserve these areas.  The Caribbean’s rich and beautiful natural heritage deserves our best efforts while also protecting the sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities.

To find out more about the SPAW Protocol and the work of the Caribbean Environment Programme see: www.cep.unep.org and www.car-spaw-rac.org

For further information: 
 Alejandro Laguna - Comunication and Information Officer
 United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
 Clayton, Ciudad del Saber - Alberto Tejada, Building 103; Ancon - Panama City, Panama.
 Phone.: 305 3100
 alex.laguna@unep.org

Credit: UNEP Environment for Development

New CARICOM chairman to place emphasis on climate change

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday he would use his six month term as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to deal with the deleterious effects climate change is having on the socio-economic future of the 15-member bloc.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are now emerging from the effects of a weather system that left a trail of death and destruction over the Christmas holidays.

Caribbean countries have also had to deal with the annual hurricane season and in many cases, like in Haiti, unseasonal rains that cause widespread devastation.

“The big issue…is global warming, climate change. We are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” he said making reference to the floods in April last year and the Christmas Eve rains that resulted in the deaths of nine people and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages here.

“There are lots of monies which countries talk about for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. But I haven’t seen the money yet and we have to use our diplomacy as a region and we have to be aggressive with our climate change center in Belize.

“In my term as chairman of CARICOM this is one of the issues which you will recall I said earlier on…I want dealt with during my term in a continued serious and structured way, (and it) has to deal with the deleterious effect of climate change and to get the requisite responses from the international community in relation to this matter”.

Gonsalves told a news conference that the region does not contribute “anything to these man made weather systems, these problems with putting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We are …on the front line,” he said, adding that “this is an issue which is big”.

Gonsalves said that efforts were now underway to stage an international donors’ conference to help the three affected islands recover and rebuild their battered infrastructures.

He said he had already received a letter from Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), outlining plans for an international donors’ conference.

“There is a letter which Baldwin sent to me which I have reviewed and make one or two slight alterations and suggestions, but we have to prepare for a donors’ conference well, maybe in March may be in February… but we have to prepare for it well so that we can get the donors to make pledges,” he said, recalling a similar conference had taken place to help Grenada after it was battered by a recent hurricane.

“I know some of the donors came through and others did not, but at least we need to do that to lift the profile,” Gonsalves said.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister told reporters that an insurance scheme organized through the World Bank, to which all the Caribbean countries contribute, does not go far enough.

“To the extent that the monies you get from the Catastrophic Relief Insurance System is fairly minimal, but of course every little bit helps,” he said.

Gonsalves said he had already written to the leaders of several countries and was now  waiting to see “what kind of grant assistance we can get because we really need grants preferably.

“The World Bank will give soft loan monies, the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will give soft loan monies, the European Union will give grants, Venezuela will give grants, (and) Taiwan will give grants”.

CMC/kc/ir/2014

Credit: CMC
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