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“Political buy-in is not about convincing them about vulnerability because that has been established. It is about convincing our Governments to act, and act now.” –  Janine Coye-Felson

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre’s International Conference on climate change highlighted the importance of establishing a Science-Policy-Finance interface nexus in climate action. In light of the recent surge of Category 5 hurricanes, it is clear that policy dynamics need to include mechanisms of adaptation to such threats. In creating such an interface, the question arises, how do disasters relate to policy and economy? Chair of the discussion, Dr. Mark Bryno stated:

“Grenada is a case in point, if you are going to lose 200% of your GDP in one event, then that throws your entire balance of payment out of whack. Being able to recover from an event like that would take years.”


Paradigm Shift Needed in Policy

There needs to be a paradigm shift to ensure adaptation by relating science, policy, and finance. Janine Coye-Felson, Belize’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, attributed hindrances of such an integrated dynamic to the perceived issue of burden sharing. “Ultimately, Climate Change is more about politics than it is science. Science is almost treated as a backdrop for the discussion.” Scientific data and climatic modelling need to be considered in political decisions, however, there seems to be a disconnect with regards to the relationship of relevant action and national priorities.

Mr. Kishan Kumarsingh, Head, Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit at the Ministry of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago, referred to climate change as a national development issue. He said that oftentimes when contextualising the impacts of climate change and analysing prospective adaption measures, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are “lumped” together due to their perceived similarity in risk.  However, the issue is more complex and should be sought out at a national prioritizing level. How are we to adapt if our individual needs are not taken into consideration? The data should, therefore, be contextualised and used constructively to inform policy, and once the policy is informed, economic considerations will follow.

Dr. Roger Pulwarty carried the discussion further by emphasising the need for scientists to relay information to policymakers in a manner that relates to strategic action. He stated that we should communicate the influence of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management on additional investments in these areas.

” We have made the case of avoided losses, but we have not made the case that when you save from an avoided loss that becomes part of the portfolio for reducing risk. “

We must inherently “package” the information correctly. The discussion must happen in terms of national priorities: dollars and cents.  Thus, to steer policy decision in the direction of forward -thinking and risk consideration, scientific data must answer the following:

  • What relevance do scientific forums and symposia have to policymakers?
  • What are the policy needs for scientific research?
  • How do we relate climate change issues to national development priorities?
  • What financial techniques can we implement nationally before we seek funding externally?

Once the core rationale for the integration of risks into national development is determined, we can mesh the objectivity of science with the subjectivity of policy to establish sustainable measures of adaptation and mitigation.

Damian Clarke

About Damian Clarke

Damian is reading for a BSc in Environmental Science and Sustainable Technology at the University of the West Indies. He is the National Youth Commissioner of ScoutsTT and a member of Admit One. Damian as a passion for the environment, humanity, and creating a better world. His favorite quote: "Above all else, Character." - Robert Baden Powell