Caribbean efforts to be 'a carbon neutral destination'

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean

GENEVA, 25 January 2012 - Bequia is a delightful link in the chain of islands which make St. Vincent and the Grenadines such an attractive destination for sun worshipping tourists. With a population of 4,300 people and an area of just 18 km2, it is on the frontlines of the unfolding drama of climate change and Small Island Developing States. And, like many small tropical islands during the dry season, Bequia has problems with water supply which global warming threatens to exacerbate.

However, adaptation is alive and well in Bequia. A solar-powered reverse osmosis plant is purifying seawater and converting it into drinking water via a project that the Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Kenrick Leslie, describes as multi-beneficial.

“It replaces fossil fuel; it reduces the demand for foreign exchange to import fuels; and it provides the community with fresh water which also helps in addressing health issues”, he explains.

It’s exactly the kind of initiative which the pilot Carbon Neutral Tourism Program is designed to foster, according to Mark Bynoe, Senior Resource Economist at the CCCCC. He says the programme is an effort “to make the Caribbean region into a carbon neutral destination - getting people to convert from fossil fuels to more renewable energy. The tourism sector is the one area in which we feel we can make a change.”

The Vieux Fort Project in Saint Lucia is another innovative project, and according to Leslie, it is, “The first private-public sector project [in the Caribbean] to address the issue of climate change”.

The southern part of Saint Lucia is continually threatened by drought. Tourism requires a lot of water, while effluent from the big hotel chains can contaminate ground water sources and destroy vital coastal marine resources.

Leslie states that a hotel chain and the CCCCC were able, through a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project, to reduce the amount of water needed by the hotel by 25 percent. The latter was then made available to the community.

“More importantly, the waste water is treated, and as a result, the ‘gray’ water, after being processed is used to irrigate the golf courses and lawns.” The project enabled the Government of St, Lucia to put a policy in place that now requires all hotels to harvest rain water and process wastewater. Similar systems are being considered for replication in the Eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas and Belize.

The 20 million inhabitants of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are facing increased vulnerability to climate change; stronger storms and hurricanes as well as floods more droughts are challenging limited resources, including water, on islands dependent on tourism and agriculture.

The World Bank estimates the economic impact of climate change on all CARICOM countries at US$9.9 billion in 2007 US$ prices or about 11.3% of the total annual GDP of all 20 CARICOM countries.

In 2009, Heads of Government and State endorsed the Liliendal Declaration on Climate Change and Development which now defines CARICOM’s national and international positions on climate change. In the same year they also approved a Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change which was prepared by the CCCCC. This is now the strategic response to climate change and a roadmap for the period 2009-2015.

The CCCCC was further mandated to prepare an implementation plan to deliver the actions in the Framework for the period 2011-2021. Among the targets are the development of a risk management ethic in decision-making and the building of low-carbon climate resilient economies in the Caribbean.

CARICOM is comprised of 15 member states: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Anguilla; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands are associate members.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there are 51 small island developing states (SIDS) which share similar economic and sustainable development challenges. Their climates are influenced by large ocean-atmosphere interactions such as trade winds, El Niño, monsoons; tropical cyclones, hurricanes and sea-level rise. These climate characteristics, along with particular socio-economic situations make SIDS some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. This, added to the fact that SIDS produce such extremely low levels of greenhouse gas emissions, means that they will suffer disproportionately from the damaging impacts of climate change.

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