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The Caribbean region has produced valuable climate information in the field of climate science, particularly with respect to climate vulnerability and impacts. The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) International Conference on Climate Change in the Caribbean, currently taking place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, showcased research done by different institutions across the Caribbean. Climate tools and datasets which have been developed and applied by Caribbean researchers where discussed on Day 2 of the conference.  These tools provide a powerful resource for decision-makers in the Caribbean, which can be applied to a range of sectors including health, agriculture, coastal zone management, and urban planning.  Many of these tools and climate datasets are freely available online to enable decision-making, planning and project development, as well as implementation processes by countries across the region.

Dr. Lorna Iniss, Coordinator of the UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme asserted,

“The Caribbean is not data-poor, however, we need better strategies for determining where the data is located and whether organisations were willing to share this data”.

Building partnerships and supporting South-South exchange amongst countries was a powerful vehicle for knowledge sharing and technical assistance in the region. Belize and Barbados for example, have developed and implemented successful coastal zone management programmes. Other Caribbean countries could actively develop partnerships with Belize and Barbados to support the exchange of knowledge and technical expertise and build the required capacity in coastal zone management.

Data should drive climate policy

Sustainable sources of finance and resources for data collection and research were highlighted as a major limitation facing Caribbean countries, whether for climate change data or otherwise. Researchers noted that the climate tools and models presented at the conference could only be as useful as the historical record which exists (for the country or region). Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the CCCCC stated, “Data is an economic issue, not a meteorological one”, on discussing LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) applications for the Caribbean. He noted that Caribbean Governments must see the value of data collection and research for their national development and must be included as a budget line item in their national budgets.

Data drives informed policy-making across all sectors to address climate resiliency and sustainable development. Barbados was one of the first Caribbean countries see the value of LIDAR and self-funded studies of the coast, bathymetry and topography for the entire island, despite the high costs of the technology. Dr. Leo Brewster, Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit in Barbados, on the Barbados experience with LIDAR, noted that no agency wanted to pay for the LIDAR study, however, once his unit conducted the study, agencies such as town and country planning, water resources and transport saw the value of the LIDAR data for their work. He suggested that countries should look at options for cost recovery for data collection like LIDAR studies, such as a fee for private sector organization to access this data.

The International Conference on Climate Change for the Caribbean continues Wednesday October 11, 2017 where participants will discuss climate action in various sectors in the region as well as climate finance opportunities for the Caribbean.

Sasha Jattansingh

About Sasha Jattansingh

Sasha is Consultant on Environmental Management and Sustainable Development with a focus on participatory governance and climate change policy. She holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Policy and Regulation from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sasha is Interested in utilising behavioural economics to design appropriate policy responses for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Caribbean.