Caribbean Governments Urged to Set Climate Action Agenda

KINGSTON, Jamaica, April 9, 2008 (ENS) – Regional scientists are calling on Caribbean governments to help develop an emerging research and action agenda that will prepare the islands for the effects of climate change.

A preliminary agenda was reached after three teams of scientists carried out extensive research on climate change scenarios and modeling, coastal, marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the region.

Fined tuned at a two-day workshop hosted by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Natural Resource Institute at the University of the West Indies, Mona, the agenda identifies gaps in existing capacity in the region to deal with the effects of climate change and outlines measures to correct those deficiencies.

Dr. John Agard, chairman of the Environmental Management Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, says the agenda is long overdue.

“At the climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia last December, the Caribbean had no defined position,” he declared. “Other countries had positions, and we, named as the primary targets that are likely to be most affected by climate change, had no regional positions on what we wanted to achieve, while other people were busy lobbying for what they wanted.”

“That is absurd and embarrassing and we must not do that again!” said Dr. Agard.

The preliminary agenda urges action on:

* Facilitating community involvement in the research process
* Fostering linkages between biodiversity conservation and traditional use
* Researching how to establish a regional system of protected areas that facilitate effective biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods under climate change/variability
* Research that moves from generating climate scenarios to projected impact on ecosystem services including socio-economic valuations
* Developing protocols and agreements for data sharing and access
* Developing a Caribbean climate atlas
* Investigating how key species will respond to changes in temperature
* Research on how to strengthen the resilience of regional ecosystems to adapt to climate change

Building capacity is a detailed action point within the agenda that would create opportunities for postgraduate training and research with emphasis on Caribbean Climate Change and variability and cross disciplinary research. Equipment and software could be obtained to support climate research including modern data storage devices and online techniques.

Dr. Agard says all is not lost. The region’s leaders will get a another chance to make their demands at a followup meeting to the Bali conference which will be convened in 18 months.

Extreme weather events such as hurricanes
are forecast to increase as the Earth
warms. Here, a Category 5 Hurricane
Dean blasts across Mexico’s Yucatan
peninsula after brushing Jamaica.
August 2007 (Photo courtesy
Peggy Penner)

He advises that before then Caribbean governments should meet to develop a regional policy on climate change, saying, “They should have had a similar meeting before Bali, but that did not happen.”

“Caribbean governments must meet to define a common position, an agenda for action, because they are among the major victims of climate change. They have to demand action from amongst countries in the developed world who are the major contributors to the causes of climate change,” he stressed.

Small Island Developing States of the Caribbean are most vulnerable to climate variability and long term climate change even though they contribute less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In contrast, developed countries, including the United States, are responsible for about 50 percent of the harmful emissions that cause the Earth’s temperature to rise.

The study that informed the research agenda was funded by the U.S. based McArthur Foundation. Dr. Agard said the foundation insisted that the results of the studies should guide action towards coping with the effects of climate change in the Caribbean because in the past, a lot of fragmented studies have been funded, the results of which have not been fully utilized.

“There has been a lack of communication, with every island doing its own thing, which has resulted in repetition,” he said.

He said the research agenda will be communicated via the CARICOM Climate Change Center, located in Belize.

Dr. Agard insisted that the money to fund the climate change research must be found. “A lot will be expected from regional governments in terms of financing,” he stressed.

“I don’t think the full reality of the impact of climate change has dawned on regional governments yet,” he said. “We are now getting a bit of publicity and now getting a bit of urgency.”

“The Caribbean is earmarked to take the blunt of climate change effects,” Dr. Agard warned. “Regional infrastructure, such as airports will be severely affected, look what happened in Grenada during Hurricane Ivan in 2004! We could literally, in a few hours, lose several years of Gross Domestic Product, GDP, due to hurricane devastation.”

{This article is produced by The Panos Institute of the Caribbean, online at: [url]htt[://[/url].

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