When last was there an international story about the Caribbean, a small, relatively known region of the world? Stereotypically the most recent is more than likely a story on relaxing island life, the beautiful weather and friendly people. Threatening this serenity and way of life is climate change – this is obvious due to the increased number of hurricanes in recent years that have completely destroyed infrastructure and the livelihoods of so many islanders. However what is not clear is the fact that tackling the climate change issue seems to be one of few things that the region can do together as one.
I confess myself ignorant
Prior to writing this article most would think, including myself that there is little talk of the climate change issue despite the heavy impact the Caribbean has felt. Never has a notion been so inaccurate. One glimpse into the climate change diaspora of the region gives an insight into the progress that has been made and what is yet to come.
Together in policy for climate change
Those that live in the region we feel that there are so many developmental, organizational and infrastructural issues that we believe our progress has all but halted. Fortunately this is another highly inaccurate notion. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) reveals a multitude of new programmes, strategies and most importantly policy decisions in the field. The CCCCC acts as key node for information and knowledge exchange for climate change issues in the region beginning operation in 2005 — 10 years of work! The organisation coordinates a regional response using, an information resource portal, a blog, partnership projects, a regional clearing house/data repository and other outlets. Firstly there were a slew of bi lateral and multilateral projects some of which are still ongoing. Regardless, beginning with Liliendaal declaration on climate change and development issued by the 13th meeting of the conference of heads of government of CARICOM in 2009, policy efforts have truly been a coordinated at the regional level. Following this a regional strategy and implementation plan for dealing with climate change that member countries use as a guide. Together at the international level there is a common set of thoughts about what issues are articulated and advocated for – a unified position – coming out of the region. Yet it is difficult as small islands with varied concerns and limited power. Nevertheless a concerted effort is there.
“Encapsulated in the declaration is the main thrust to ensure that life and viability in the region is maintained as it is today keeping the surface level temperatures down to a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees. However temperatures have been rising, therefore it opens up a lot of room for discussion,” explains Tyrone Hall Communications Specialist at the CCCCC.
He says “For many islands (collectively in comparison to other nations) there are low emission rates and carbon footprints therefore the focus is on adaptation initiatives of which many projects are based, in order to maintain these lower levels. Additionally there is focus on energy and water projects as well as livelihood initiatives.”
Rising up and taking strides
Certainly such project and initiatives do have an impact at the national level but what about at the ground level? At this stage the youth take the reins with a vast number of civil society and youth based groups promoting and making a change for the climate. Leading such efforts is the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network.(CYEN)
“We at CYEN stay committed to ensuring that young people are made aware of the impacts of climate change. We have members who have participated in the previous COP meetings and others who will be in Peru this year as well.” – Rianna Gonzales – President of the CYEN Trinidad and Tobago Chapter.
Other activists to note include the University of the West Indies Environmental Society as well as grassroots and ground level programmes or events such as the 1.5 to stay alive (an education initiative) VYBZING (the Guyana youth forum for climate change), and Ja REEACH (Jamaica – Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change project and training programs.) Coming on stream is the first Caribbean Youth Congress on Climate Change to be pitched to donors for funding.
Why is there ignorance?
With so many activities going on at so many levels and real change taking place in people’s attitude, mindset and behavior, how could I miss this? It’s clear as day that the Caribbean is well on its way to tackling climate change. Therein lies the problem. Although we live in the same region the effects of climate change vary. In Trinidad and Tobago we have yet to suffer from super hurricanes, or any other climatic calamity that tips us to our breaking point. A vast majority of the other islands have experience this devastation that is so severe it literally ruptures standard thinking and change occurs.
Another important fact is that due to the natural pleasant climate of the Caribbean islands, many of them depend on tourism. With erratic weather this sector is negatively affected drastically reducing the livelihoods of millions that depend on the sector for a sustainable life. Trinidad and Tobago depends on its oil and gas resource – its energy sector bolsters its economy meaning all effort is placed there which ironically contributes more negatively to the climate problem.
Climate change has been mainstreamed in the Caribbean but this may not be true for Trinidad and Tobago. What is the status of our greenhouse gas emissions? It is true we have a number of active groups, youth and civil society doing excellent work but what about at the policy level; is Trinidad and Tobago right up there with the other Caribbean islands making waves at high level talks? What government initiatives are in place and of what nature are they?
To be blunt I existed in a fish bowl, looking from the inside out when really I should have been looking from the outside in. So the next step…more research!
Article written by Keron Bascombe from http://tech4agri.com/