Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer
WHILE Cuba is prepared for the significant climate change that is set to adversely impact the Caribbean, other countries in the region are said to be lagging behind in their preparation efforts.
Dr Barbara Carby, director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre at the University of the West Indies, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Comprehensive Disaster Management for the Caribbean that these Caribbean islands need to prepare for the impact of climate change.
Several stakeholders from the Caribbean who attended the fifth annual Caribbean Conference on Disaster Management at the Rose Hall Resort and Spa attended the forum.
"I was in Cuba a few weeks ago and the Cuban national coordinator was able to articulate Cuba's position on climate change: how many communities they are going to have to relocate, the way they are diversifying their agriculture and their irrigation system, etc. They have sat down and come up with their national policy and had cross-sectoral discussions already," Carby said.
She added: "Of the other Caribbean countries I have dealt with, Cuba is the only one that came up with that."
Carby's contribution came against the background of predictions that several of these Caribbean countries are poised to lose some land mass within the next 30 years because of rising sea levels caused by climate change.
"We should start at the policy framework that is going to guide everything else. If we are talking about the tourism sector, then whatever the tourism sector does must fit into the national policy. We can't have everyone doing what they want to do," Carby said.
Climate change could impact tourism and major historical infrastructure that are built along the coastline in the region
Meanwhile, executive director at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, expressed concern about the failure of developed nations to discuss the issue of mass relocation by persons in the Caribbean due to the rising sea levels.
"A decade ago, we were talking about climate change and we weren't taking action then. Now we are still talking about it. I fear that for small islands and developing states, there may be very little action that can be taken. That is out of their control, given the projected sea-level rise," Jackson said.
"Once our land masses begin to disappear, there are decisions we are going to make which may lead to migratory patterns in the Caribbean. Are developed countries prepared to take on that responsibility of Caribbean territories that are not able to adapt due to limited land mass to do so?" Jackson asked.