There is no doubt that the Caribbean is experiencing the impacts of climate change. The region is home to over 40 million people, who are all directly vulnerable to climate change. Stories of increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and increased hurricane intensity threaten lives, property, and livelihoods throughout the region are not just stories, they are our reality. Dominica is still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which devastated the island in August 2015, leaving close to six hundred homeless and setting the country back twenty years. Hurricane Matthew took over one thousand lives in Haiti in September 2016 and destroyed up to 90 percent of southern Haiti.
The severity of these climate impacts make every climate action extremely important. Like David’s pebbles, these four climate wins bring us a little closer to conquering our Goliath.
- Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) advances for the fisher folk
Fisher folk depend on marine life for a living and when it comes to climate change our marine ecosystems are not spared. Climate variability, the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and storms, places fishing and aquaculture infrastructure in danger and increases incidences of loss of life at sea.
Four Caribbean countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, and St. Lucia will be benefitting from a new system to address these issues. They will be equipped with an early warning and emergency response tool, which aims to save lives and properties in extremely rough weather and sea conditions. The system is being developed under the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR), by the ICT4Fisheries Consortium, as a joint venture with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).
- Creating monitoring systems
Increasing temperatures and ocean acidification both have crucial repercussions for coral reefs, which are important for island economies as they provide fishing grounds, coastal protection, and tourism opportunities. Invasion by sargassum seaweed is also a hazard and a cause for grave concern. These are just a few more impacts of climate change on seas and oceans.
On the plus side, in late 2016, it was reported that CRFM has been working with other Caribbean agencies and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS) to create the region’s first marine climate change report card. This monitoring mechanism, under the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme, funded by the UK government, is commendable because it promises to provide data to feed into evaluation of current climate adaptation and resilience programmes. It may also lead to progress and advancement of future systems to protect marine resources.
According to Peter Murray (CRFM’s Programme Manager – Fisheries Management & Development), “…the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance.”
- Preparing climate influencers
In response to the demand for tertiary level training of specialists in the areas of sustainable energy, climate change, renewable energy, and sustainable tourism, Caribbean tertiary education institutions are stepping up to the plate. In February 2017, the University of Technology (UTECH), Jamaica launched the multidisciplinary Master of Science Degree in Sustainable Energy and Climate Change. In addition, enrolment in the University of the West Indies’ MSc in Renewable Energy Technology, MBA in Sustainable Energy Management, and BSc Environmental Economics programmes prepares students to be climate-oriented decision makers.
Shaping leaders who are strongly focused on sustainability in business and economics and creating opportunities for entrepreneurship and development of the green, blue, and circular economies, is a major climate win future generations will benefit from.
- Renewable energy investments
Despite the tremendous availability of renewable energy resources, the region remains dependent on imported fossil fuels and exposed to volatile oil prices. This limits development and abuses natural resources. Geographic and financial constraints impede upon the region’s capacity to grow its renewable energy sector.
In spite of this, some countries are making strides in their efforts toward de-carbonisation. Antigua and Barbuda is currently leading in terms of clean energy supply in the Caribbean. Eleven solar installations were recently completed in Antigua, with total capacity of 404 kWp. This is a leap in the right direction as it represents sustainable and economic energy supply for the island, estimated to save 438 tons of CO2 emissions per year. A great yardstick for other Caribbean countries.
In 2016, Jamaica was recognised internationally as one of the many small islands that are big investors in renewable energy, when measured against a country’s gross domestic product. Accompanied by Mauritania, Honduras, and Uruguay, Jamaica is making major steps forward in adding clean energy to its power generation mix. The Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology recently announced that it will allocate 150 MW of renewable energy capacity this year. Also, St. Lucia has shown itself to be a pioneer in sustainable energy initiatives in the Caribbean. In May 2016, through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Government of St. Lucia approved an LED street lighting project to replace 21, 587 street lights throughout the island with high efficient LED lights.
These Caribbean countries show that small does not equal powerless. By coming together to unite our efforts and resources, we will stand a higher chance of transforming climate wins into triumphs for the region and building a safer world for future generations.