Tue | May 24, 2022

Caribbean experts call for action on climate change

Published:Monday | March 7, 2022 | 12:08 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

The slow pace or failure to implement policies on mitigation and adaptation strategies to address climate change throughout the Caribbean was highlighted as an issue of major concern by panellists during Thursday evening’s March edition of the Central Bank of Barbados’ Economic Forum.

Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Natural Resources Institute in Trinidad and Tobago, Cletus Springer, pointed out that the pace of the projects, which take anywhere between three and five years from conception to completion, did not suggest urgency in the region’s response.

In fact, many of the projects did not even reflect a deepening consideration of climate-change impacts, he said.

“I still see hotels going up and being approved for the coastal zones. I still don’t see enough attention being paid to building the resilience of our water resources, and in many cases, the water resources that we use are our surface water resources, except for Bermuda and Barbados,” said Springer during the virtual forum, which examined the theme ‘Building Resilience Against Climate Change’.

“We saw some extensive damage being done to the water sector and Dominica, which, perhaps of all the countries in the Caribbean, is the one that has developed a culture of resilience to climate change and is moving steadfastly to build its resilience to climate change.”

Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, Professor Michael Taylor, explained that there is an inherent vulnerability in the Caribbean to climate change, which has been having a multiplier effect.

“We are located in this tropical belt in this extreme weather alley… and so we can’t escape this. Our size, we are small islands, we live on coast lines, so everything that you can think of that is major such as our cities, electricity infrastructure, health centres, all exist within a few kilometres of the coast. And if you try to get away from the coastline, in most territories, the steep, hilly, rugged interior adds another sensitivity to the climate,” according to Taylor.

SENSITIVITY TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Caribbean life, for the most part, is patterned around sectors that have a strong sensitivity to climate change, with tourism and agriculture, two of the main drivers of the regional economies, having an especially strong effect on quality-of-life sectors such as water and health.

“We pattern our lives around climate, and what climate is doing in this unfamiliar era is taking that sensitivity and turning it into an extreme vulnerability, and it means that part of what is holding us back, clearly, is our lack of recognition of this sensitivity to climate and how much it pervades every single area of our lives,” he warned.

Meanwhile, director of the Trinidad and Tobago-based Climate Analytics Caribbean Office, Rueanna Haynes, said that a lot of work has been done in academia and by governments that have been proactive in enacting climate policy and pushing for more ambitious climate action. Despite this, there is still much more that needs to be done.

“What we do need to see more of at this point, though, is actual implementation of those polices. We are at a point where we need to accelerate our response to the global climate crises. We are now at a crisis stage in the sense that impacts that we are already experiencing are accelerating - and dangerously so,” said Haynes.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com