SEMINAR LAUNCHED AT OAS: CLIMATE CHANGE IN CARIBBEAN DEMANDS URGENT MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION
Launching the first in the Caribbean Seminar Series "Bringing the Caribbean's Sustainable Development Agenda to Washington," OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin told participants that despite varying views on the causes of climate change, "there is clear evidence from NASA satellites that the polar ice cap as a whole is shrinking at a rate of about 9 percent each decade. A vicious cycle is in progress: As more of the polar ice cap disappears, the warmer the earth will become." The seminar series is a joint effort of the OAS Department of Sustainable Development, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC) and the World Bank.
(Media-Newswire.com) - The Caribbean region is already suffering some of the negative impacts of climate change, and urgent action must be taken to mitigate the effects of such human activities as over-fishing and pollution, a group of regional climate-change experts argued today at the Organization of American States ( OAS ).
Launching the first in the Caribbean Seminar Series “Bringing the Caribbean’s Sustainable Development Agenda to Washington,” OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin told participants that despite varying views on the causes of climate change, “there is clear evidence from NASA satellites that the polar ice cap as a whole is shrinking at a rate of about 9 percent each decade. A vicious cycle is in progress: As more of the polar ice cap disappears, the warmer the earth will become.”
The seminar series is a joint effort of the OAS Department of Sustainable Development, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Center ( CCCCC ) and the World Bank.
In stressing the need for a holistic approach, Ramdin said the OAS agenda “cannot and should not be divorced from the reality of the political, social, economic and environmental changes ongoing in the Americas.” He noted the particular development challenges faced by the smaller member countries, especially those in the Caribbean and Central America, noting Grenada’s experience during and after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
“Prior to the arrival of Hurricane Ivan, Grenada’s economy was projected to grow by 4.7% in 2004 and at an average rate of 5% between 2005 and 2007. After Hurricane Ivan, economic activity declined to negative 1.4% in 2004. There was an inevitable contraction in tourism, a halt in production of traditional crops,” he said.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell argued that “the possibility that our climate may change is enough for us to take notice and to be pro-active. We stand to lose nearly everything, if the predictions of the scientists come true.” She described this first seminar as an excellent opportunity to think about the policies, programs and strategies that might be employed to overcome the challenges to the sustainable development of the Caribbean countries—which, she added, can take no solace in the fact that they are not the major emitters of greenhouses gases that are at the heart of the problem.
According to CCCCC Deputy Director Dr. Carlos Fuller, the average temperature in the Caribbean region increased by 1 degree Celsius in the 20th century, with sea levels rising by 2 millimeters per year, and scientific projections are for much steeper change in the next four decades. He said adaptation strategies must be put in place to meet the urgent needs of mitigation, and called for more scientific studies to inform the policy options. “Our political directorate needs hard evidence” articulated in economic terms, he stressed. “The onus is on the scientific community to provide that evidence to them.”
Dr. Neville Trotz, CCCCC science advisor, outlined the rationale for the Climate Change Center’s work, emphasizing that adaptation is necessary to strengthen the resilience of human, social and natural systems to the likely impact of climate change. “To adapt, we have to identify more accurately what the risk is, what climate we’ll be exposed to in the future,” he said, adding that the Center has been doing some monitoring in the region and using models to come up with region-specific climate-change projections. These will be used to revisit the agriculture, water and tourism sectors, for instance, to see what the potential impacts of climate change might be. He also spoke about interest in the feasibility of a carbon levy proposal – similar to a system adopted by the European Union for air travel in Europe – as a means of raising the resources with which to address adaptation.
The World Bank’s Walter Vergara gave an overview of an initiative his institution has been implementing in conjunction with the CCCCC to address the challenges of climate change in the Caribbean. His presentation highlighted activities, lessons learned and recommendations for further work in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, in his presentation entitled “Linking Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency to Security and Climate Change in the Caribbean,” Mark Lambrides of the OAS Department of Sustainable Development noted the negative impact of diesel generators on the environment and tourism economy. He highlighted such energy alternatives as diversification based on domestic renewable resources ( wind, geothermal, biomass and solar, among others ), as well as the potential for energy conservation in commercial sectors such as tourism. He also recommended residential conservation measures.
In closing remarks, Cletus Springer of the Department of Sustainable Development noted that the seminar series is intended to bring such issues to the attention of Caribbean representatives in Washington, as well as international development agencies, because they are the ones who must build partnerships and take the baton forward. “The message,” Springer said, “is that we have a very real threat confronting our sustainable development. It is real, it is immediate.”
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