By Peter Richards, IPS News March 16, 2012
Failure to adapt to climate change will derail the development aspirations of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom), researchers warn, siphoning off an average of five percent of 2004 gross domestic product regionwide by 2025.
The predicted costs could rise to as much as 75 percent by 2100 for smaller nations, says the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
Meeting in Suriname last week, Caricom leaders acknowledged the severity of the threat, adopting a common strategy dubbed the "Implementation Plan for the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change".
The problem now is how to pay for it.
The CCCCC, which drafted the plan at Caricom's request, noted that "these concerns will require both adaptation and mitigation actions, which will necessitate significant and sustained investment of resources" that Caribbean countries will be unable to raise on their own.
"These climate challenges are compounded by the fact that Caricom states are relatively small, have an exceptionally high level of external debt - in some instances above 100 percent of GDP - and depend heavily on expensive imported fuel," Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CCCCC's executive director, told IPS.
He noted that fuel prices "reached 147 dollars per barrel in 2008, with 21 percent of GDP, or four times the food import bill of four billion dollars, being expended on this product in 2010.
"This means that Caricom states do not have the necessary resources to implement adaptation programmes," he said, adding "given the scale of these costs, (it) will mean that the economies of the Caricom states are in perpetual recession."
Leslie said that socioeconomic development and adaptation measures, such as replanting of mangroves, better land use planning, and building coastal defence structures against rising sea levels are closely intertwined.
"Adaptation is increasingly described as climate resilient development or development under a hostile climate. It is the ability of states to withstand the vagaries of a changing climate, or even if impacted negatively, how quickly they are able to response and rebound," he said.
Leslie added "how quickly Grenada was able to rebuild and return to some semblance of normalcy after Hurricanes Ivan and Emily (in 2004 and 2011) was a reflection of her resilient development."
The regional framework plan provides a road map for Caribbean action on climate change over the period 2011 to 2021.
"It is a live document and will be subject to review and possible revision biannually to ensure that it continues to reflect the priorities for the Caribbean region in responding to climate variability and climate change," Leslie said.
When they adopted the "Liliendaal Declaration" at their summit in Guyana in 2009, regional leaders made a number of declarations on climate change and the environment which they felt could only be delivered by transformational change.
These include long-term stabilisation of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations to limit warming below 1.5 degrees C of pre- industrial levels; and the need for financial support to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to enhance their capacities to respond to the challenges brought on by climate change and to access the technologies that will be required to undertake needed mitigation actions and to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.
In the declaration, the regional leaders "expressed grave concern" that their efforts to promote sustainable development and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were under severe threat from the devastating effects of climate change, extreme weather events and sea level rise.
"Dangerous climate change is already occurring in all SIDS regions including the Caribbean, requiring urgent, ambitious and decisive action by Caricom states and by the international community," it said.
The regional framework is guided by five strategic elements and some 20 goals designed to significantly increase the resilience of the Caribbean social, economic and environmental systems.
They include mainstreaming climate change adaptation strategies into the sustainable development agendas of Caricom states, promoting the implementation of specific adaptation measures to address key vulnerabilities in the region as well as promote actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through fossil fuel reduction and conservation, and switching to renewable and cleaner energy sources.
The strategies also seek to encourage action to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems in Caricom countries to the impacts of a changing climate and promoting action to derive social, economic, and environmental benefits through the prudent management of standing forests.
The plan acknowledges that building a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy is an integral element of the wider sustainable development agenda and that addressing climate change without addressing the existing underlying sustainable development and growth challenges faced by the region will not deliver resilience.
So far, a Memorandum of Understanding and Joint Concept Note has been signed with Norway to deliver financial resources of up to 250 million dollars by 2015 to commence and partially support the implementation of the strategy.
But greater financial and technical assistance will be required.
"Caricom countries now have an opportunity to attract climate change finance to support their initiatives to build the resilience of their economies and achieve low-carbon climate resilient development through initiatives such as the Fast Start Funds under the Copenhagen Accord," the document says.
In the main, the plan is being financed through development partners' support, including a combined 11.4 million dollars from the Barbados- based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCAA) of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).
Eight million dollars were also acquired at the recently concluded VII UK/Caribbean Forum in Grenada for early implementation of priority actions identified in the plan.
Leslie said that the implementation plan will work within the ambit of individual countries' plans, programmes and projects, "thus allowing for greater synergies, sustainability and ownership by the countries of Caricom.
"In this way, it is working with governments to ensure that climate change and climate variability are integrated within countries development plans and programmes and becomes a part of the national budgetary cycle," he said indicating that the "Three-Ones" approach will be utilised in executing the plan.
The essential feature of that approach "is that it works with the organisations that are already in place utilising existing resources more effectively.
"This model was adopted as it was successfully used in the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PANCAP) to deliver transformational change with limited resources (as it relates to the HIV/AIDS epidemic). Over the 10-year period of the programme, the PANCAP has been declared an international best practice example by the United Nations," Leslie added.