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Caribbean population need to be more informed on climate change

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries including Montserrat, have been warned that it would be virtually impossible to implement strategies to deal with climate change if their populations do not yet understand the critical importance of climate change to the region.

“Despite the volumes of data published on climate change and its impacts on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the subject is still not one that is at the forefront of the thinking and actions of the people of the Caribbean,” said Sustainable Development, Energy, Science & Technology Minister Dr. James Fletcher.

He told the inaugural meeting of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change (RCC) that efforts at communicating the climate change message have been a little disjointed and un-sustained.  “Conveniently, when a devastating storm or hurricane strikes one of our islands we reference climate change and speak of how these phenomena will become more frequent and severe with a warmer climate, but outside of that very little is said.

“For countries that we claim, correctly, are at ground zero of  climate change, our populations are alarmingly un-informed of the wide -ranging impacts of this global crisis.”

He warned that it would be “very difficult for this committee to oversee the implementation of strategies, policies and actions that are consistent with delivering low-carbon and carbon-resilient economies if the vast majority of our people, including many of our policy makers, do not yet understand the critical importance of climate change to our region”.

Fletcher said that the challenge to get the message across becomes even more acute when it is being done in difficult economic times and when the preoccupation is with fiscal deficits, sluggish economies, high levels of sovereign debt, and rising unemployment.

Therefore, one of the strategic pieces of guidance this Committee must provide to national governments and regional organisations has to be on getting the climate change message across in a way that everyone understands and appreciates its significance.”

Fletcher, who is also chairman of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Regional Task Force on Sustainable Development, said it was also important for there to be coordination among the various stakeholders, adding the establishment of this Committee “signals a recognition that our region must synchronize its response to climate change”.

He said that the cost of adapting to the impacts of climate change is beyond the capacity of any of “our fiscally -challenged governments” and that every effort must be made to “make the best possible use of all available resources – human, resources.

“We cannot afford any duplication of effort or wastage,” he said, adding that coordination had to extend to the messages that the region delivers in the international community.

“For over five years now, since I became involved with the climate change negotiations, I have lamented the absence of a cohesive, coordinated approach to the way we engage in these negotiations. We have overworked, under-resourced technical officers scurrying from one negotiating meeting to another, criss -crossing the globe, trying to match up with the weight of the negotiating power of the United States, Japan or the European Union.

“We also repeatedly fail to take advantage of the opportunity for fourteen Heads of Government or Ministers of the Environment from our region to address international gatherings, reinforcing the same point and seeking to mobilise support from those who routinely lobby us for our support for their candidature to international positions. Coordination at all levels is vital and we must do it better,” he said.

He reminded delegates that climate change in the Caribbean is “an existential issue” that poses a clear, present and potent threat to the survival of the region.

“While for other countries it may still be an abstract, academic or esoteric concept, for us it is a matter of life and death. All of the data point in one direction. Atmospheric CO2 has passed the 400 ppm mark and every year is identified as one of the hottest since record-keeping started.This demonstrates that the stage is set for the inexorable advance of the climate change juggernaut, a juggernaut created by mankind.

“Unfortunately, due to our geography and socio-economic circumstances, we will bear the brunt of the impacts caused by sea-level rise, intensified droughts and hurricanes, elevated daily temperatures, coral bleaching and ocean acidification, among others. Our window for meaningful action is closing. Therefore, it is time for this Regional Coordinating Committee to get to work,” he added.

TMR Editor: Marine and Coastal Environment issues should be part of and receive focus in the discussions involving and emanating from the Climate Change discussions.

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries including Montserrat, have been warned that it would be virtually impossible to implement strategies to deal with climate change if their populations do not yet understand the critical importance of climate change to the region.

“Despite the volumes of data published on climate change and its impacts on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the subject is still not one that is at the forefront of the thinking and actions of the people of the Caribbean,” said Sustainable Development, Energy, Science & Technology Minister Dr. James Fletcher.

He told the inaugural meeting of the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change (RCC) that efforts at communicating the climate change message have been a little disjointed and un-sustained.  “Conveniently, when a devastating storm or hurricane strikes one of our islands we reference climate change and speak of how these phenomena will become more frequent and severe with a warmer climate, but outside of that very little is said.

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“For countries that we claim, correctly, are at ground zero of  climate change, our populations are alarmingly un-informed of the wide -ranging impacts of this global crisis.”

He warned that it would be “very difficult for this committee to oversee the implementation of strategies, policies and actions that are consistent with delivering low-carbon and carbon-resilient economies if the vast majority of our people, including many of our policy makers, do not yet understand the critical importance of climate change to our region”.

Fletcher said that the challenge to get the message across becomes even more acute when it is being done in difficult economic times and when the preoccupation is with fiscal deficits, sluggish economies, high levels of sovereign debt, and rising unemployment.

Therefore, one of the strategic pieces of guidance this Committee must provide to national governments and regional organisations has to be on getting the climate change message across in a way that everyone understands and appreciates its significance.”

Fletcher, who is also chairman of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Regional Task Force on Sustainable Development, said it was also important for there to be coordination among the various stakeholders, adding the establishment of this Committee “signals a recognition that our region must synchronize its response to climate change”.

He said that the cost of adapting to the impacts of climate change is beyond the capacity of any of “our fiscally -challenged governments” and that every effort must be made to “make the best possible use of all available resources – human, resources.

“We cannot afford any duplication of effort or wastage,” he said, adding that coordination had to extend to the messages that the region delivers in the international community.

“For over five years now, since I became involved with the climate change negotiations, I have lamented the absence of a cohesive, coordinated approach to the way we engage in these negotiations. We have overworked, under-resourced technical officers scurrying from one negotiating meeting to another, criss -crossing the globe, trying to match up with the weight of the negotiating power of the United States, Japan or the European Union.

“We also repeatedly fail to take advantage of the opportunity for fourteen Heads of Government or Ministers of the Environment from our region to address international gatherings, reinforcing the same point and seeking to mobilise support from those who routinely lobby us for our support for their candidature to international positions. Coordination at all levels is vital and we must do it better,” he said.

He reminded delegates that climate change in the Caribbean is “an existential issue” that poses a clear, present and potent threat to the survival of the region.

“While for other countries it may still be an abstract, academic or esoteric concept, for us it is a matter of life and death. All of the data point in one direction. Atmospheric CO2 has passed the 400 ppm mark and every year is identified as one of the hottest since record-keeping started.This demonstrates that the stage is set for the inexorable advance of the climate change juggernaut, a juggernaut created by mankind.

“Unfortunately, due to our geography and socio-economic circumstances, we will bear the brunt of the impacts caused by sea-level rise, intensified droughts and hurricanes, elevated daily temperatures, coral bleaching and ocean acidification, among others. Our window for meaningful action is closing. Therefore, it is time for this Regional Coordinating Committee to get to work,” he added.

TMR Editor: Marine and Coastal Environment issues should be part of and receive focus in the discussions involving and emanating from the Climate Change discussions.