By Rachel Cernansky, Boulder, Colorado
The tiny South American nation of Suriname has recently joined its neighbor Guyana in creating an agency dedicated to dealing with climate change. Suriname, the continent's smallest country, is a low-lying nation on the northern coast of South America, with the majority of the population concentrated along the coast where the capital is located.
More importantly, Suriname counts itself as one of the five nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The newly-created agency, the Climate Compatible Development Agency, will consolidate and streamline climate change-related efforts by the various departments within Suriname's government, Reuters AlertNet reports, rather than continue to operate on a piecemeal basis.
"We owe it to our children to prepare ourselves for the effects climate change will have on our country," President Desi Bouterse said, according to Suriname news agency DevSur.
"The establishment of the Climate Compatible Development Agency puts us in the fraternity of developing countries that are signaling their seriousness regarding adaptation," said Agency Director John Goedschalk, a U.S.-trained economist trained to lead the agency.
The agency will be tasked with a variety of responsibilities:
1. To coordinate the country's policies on climate change mitigation and adaptation,
as well as forest conservation. Climate Compatible Development Strategy
2. To help Suriname win international funding for efforts related to those policies.
3. To lead the country's Climate Change Fund.
4. To support a Climate Compatible Knowledge Institute.
Local Approach to a Global Problem
Goedschalk sums up the situation that a lot of developing countries are in:
"Despite the fact that we do not contribute (substantially) to climate change,
west and to be impacted heavily by its effects. Our entire economic zone is
located within our coastal areas, so when sea level rises we stand to lose a whole
Demerara Waves reports that one of Goedschalk's first goals will be to accelerate the first carbon assessment program in Suriname. "We will introduce a strategy that is climate change compatible and goes parallel with Government's development initiatives," he said.
AlertNet reports that hydrology professor Sieuwnath Naipal recognizes that the agency comes with significant challenges—Goedschalk "will need adapted policies, technologies, money and most of all political will locally and internationally"—but said the fact is, "sooner or later all countries have to make the transition."
That fact is a universal one, and is applicable on a level well beyond Suriname. It will be interesting to see what efforts sprout up from other countries facing the same challenge.
And with the development of the Green Climate Fund on the agenda for the UNFCCC's upcoming meeting in Durban, now just a few months away, it will be especially interesting to watch agencies form that will be able to use, efficiently and appropriately, any international funding made available to countries facing climate change-related challenges.