Inter Press ServiceCaribbean Climate Wire – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Between Drought and Floods, Cuba Seeks to Improve Water Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:48:23 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157631 If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim. A study by the […]

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A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Sep 15 2018 (IPS)

If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim.

A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which covers the period 2003-2013, shows that the world’s largest underground aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate as a result of more water being withdrawn than can be replenished.

“The situation is quite critical,” NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti has said, when discussing the subject in specialised publications in the U.S. In the opinion of this expert the problems with groundwater are aggravated by global warming due to the phenomenon of climate change.

Far from diminishing, the impact of climate variations is also felt in greater changes in rainfall patterns, with serious consequences for Caribbean nations that are dependent on rainfall. In Cuba and other Caribbean island countries, in particular, periods of drought have become more intense.

“There is a gradual decrease in water availability due to reduced rainfall, deteriorating water quality and greater evaporation due to rising temperatures,” Antonio Rodríguez, vice-president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), told IPS in an interview.

Hurricane Irma, which in September 2017 tore almost through the entire Cuban archipelago, contributed to the relief of a drought that kept the country’s people and fields thirsty for nearly four years. The current rainy season, which will last until November, began in May with Subtropical Storm Alberto with high levels of rainfall that will continue.

“We have been able to show that climate change is real. We lived through 38 months of intense drought and then we had rains well above average,” said Rodrìguez.

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The intense rains associated with Alberto, which hit Cuba in the last week of May, caused eight deaths due to drowning and serious economic damage in several provinces, but at the same time considerably increased the reserves in the 242 reservoirs controlled by the INRH, the government agency in charge of Cuba’s water resources.

Tarea Vida, the official plan to deal with climate change in force since last year, warns that the average sea level has risen 6.77 cm to date, and could rise 27 cm by 2050 and 85 by 2100, which would cause the gradual loss of land in low-lying coastal areas.

In addition, there could be “a salinisation of underground aquifers opened up to the sea due to saline wedge intrusion.” For now, “of the 101 aquifers controlled by the INRH, 100 are in a very favourable state,” Rodríguez said.

These sources also suffered the impact of the drought, but recovered with the rains after Hurricane Irma.

In this context, the inefficient use of water, due to the technical condition and inadequate functioning of the water system, causes the annual loss of some 1.6 billion cubic metres of water in Cuba.

In 2011, a strategic plan outlining priorities to address this situation began to be implemented in 12 cities from Havana to Santiago de Cuba in the east.

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

When the programme began, losses amounted to 58 percent, both in the water grid and inside homes and other establishments. So far, the loss has only been reduced to 48 percent.

Since 2013, however, work has been underway on a comprehensive supply and sanitation plan that covers more than a solution to losses in distribution.

From 2015 to 2017, sewerage coverage has improved by 0.6 per cent and an additional 1.6 million people have benefited from the water supply.

Currently, only 11 percent of the country’s population of 11.2 million receive piped water at home 24 hours a day, and 39 percent at certain times of the day. In the remaining 50 percent of households, water is available only sporadically, and sometimes they go more than a week without water.

“I live in downtown Santiago de Cuba and we have two large elevated tanks and a cistern. We get piped water from the grid more or less every seven days and it is enough for us, even for our daily shower,” a worker from the telephone company Etecsa told IPS from that city, asking to remain anonymous.

Part of the historical water deficit in Santiago and other cities in the eastern-most part of the country has been alleviated through the transfer of water from regions with a greater supply. But during times of drought the supply cycles slow down. “That’s why in my house we are careful with our water,” she said.

One study found that of the 58 percent of water lost, 20 percent is lost in homes.

Another priority is to increase wastewater treatment. “Although in the country sewage coverage is more than 96 percent, only 36 percent of the population receives the service through networks, the rest is through septic tanks and other types of treatment,” said INRH vice-president Rodrìguez.

Among these challenges, he also mentioned poor hydrometric coverage.

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“We were able to get 100 percent of the public sector and all major consumers to be controlled by water metres, although in the residential sector this coverage reaches just over 23 percent of the population. From 2015 to 2017, more than 227,000 water meters have been installed, but the plan is to reach total coverage,” Rodríguez said.

“Without a doubt, water meters reduce consumption and allow us to measure the efficiency of our system,” he added.

Like other services, residential water supply is subsidised by the state and has a very low cost. “There are four of us and we pay 5.20 pesos a month (less than 0.25 cents of a dollar),” said María Curbelo, a resident of the Havana neighbourhood of Vedado.

The national hydraulic programme extended until 2030 includes works for water supply, sanitation, storage, diversion and hydrometry, as well as the necessary equipment for investment and maintenance.

“We are also working on the construction of seawater desalination plants,” Rodriguez said.

These plans include not only works to supply the population, but also everything necessary for agriculture, hotel infrastructure and the housing programme.

Rodriguez explained that to carry out the programme there is both state and foreign funding, which has made possible a subsidised home supply.

“We have benefited by foreign loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Spain’s development aid agency and Chinese donations,” among others, he said.

These are soft loans with a five-year grace period, two or three percent interest and to be paid in 20 years, with the Cuban State as guarantor.

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Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experimenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 14:14:45 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157466 This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

Magnus Tut a member of the Trio Cacao Farmers Association cuts open a white cacao pod from one of several bearing treen in his plot. The group is hoping to find more buyers for their organic white cacao and vegetables. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust helps farmers to establish traditional tree crops, like the cacao, that would provide them with long-term income opportunities through restoring the forest, protecting the natural environment, while building their livelihoods and opportunities. Experts say the farmers are building resilience to climate change in the eight rural communities they represent.

The agroforestry concession is situated in the Maya Mountain Reserve and is one of two agroforestry projects undertaken by the 5Cs, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), in its efforts to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies in communities across the Caribbean.

Close to 6,000 people both directly and indirectly benefit from the project which Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy executive director of the 5Cs, noted was established with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID).

“It is easily one of our most successful and during my most recent visit this year, I’ve seen enough to believe that the concept can be successfully transferred to any community in Belize as well as to other parts of the Caribbean,” he told IPS.

The Trio Cacao Farmers Association and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust have been working together since 2015 to acquire and establish an agroforestry concession on 379 hectares of disturbed forest. The agroforestry project was given a much-need boost with USD250,000 in funding through the 5Cs.

According to Christina Garcia, Ya’axché’s executive director, the project provides extension services. It also provides training and public awareness to prepare the farmers on how to reduce deforestation, prevent degradation of their water supplies and reduce the occurrence of wildfires in the beneficiary communities and the concession area.

Since the start, more than 50,000 cacao trees have been planted on 67 hectares and many are already producing the white cacao, a traditional crop in this area. To supplement the farmers’ incomes approximately 41 hectares of ‘cash’ crops, including bananas, plantains, vegetable, corn and peppers, were also established along with grow-houses and composting heaps that would support the crops.

This unique project is on track to become one of the exemplary demonstrations of ecosystems-based adaptation in the region.

The 35 farming families here are native Maya. They live and work in an area that is part of what has been dubbed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which connects the forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal lowlands and is managed by Ya’axché.

Farmers here believe they are reclaiming their traditional ways of life on the four hectares which they each have been allocated. Many say they’ve improved their incomes while restoring the disturbed forests, and are doing this through using techniques that are protecting and preserving the remaining forests, the wildlife and water.

On tour of the Ya’axché Agroforestry Concession in the Maya Golden Landscape. From right: Dr Ulric Trotz, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); Dr Mark Bynoe, head of project development at the 5Cs; Isabel Rash, chair of the Trios Cacao Farmers Association; Magnus Tut, farmer and ranger and behind him Christina Garcia, executive director Ya’axché Conservation Trust. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Other members of the communities, including school-age teenagers, were given the opportunity to start their own businesses through the provision of training and hives to start bee-keeping projects. Many of the women now involved in bee-keeping were given one box when they started their businesses.

The men and women who work the concession do not use chemicals and can, therefore, market their crops as chemical free, or organic products. They, however, say they need additional help to seek and establish those lucrative markets. In addition to the no-chemicals rule, the plots are cultivated by hand, using traditional tools. But farmer Magnus Tut said that this is used in conjunction with new techniques, adding that it has improved native farming methods.

“We are going back to the old ways, which my father told me about before chemicals were introduced to make things grow faster. The hardest part is maintaining the plot. It is challenging and hard work but it is good work, and there are health benefits,” Tut told IPS.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the farmers’ beliefs, reporting that up to 11 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation and “between 24 and 30 percent of total mitigation potential” can be provided by halting and reversing deforestation in the tropics.

“The hardest part of the work is getting some people to understand how/what they do impacts the climate, but each has their own story and they are experiencing the changes which make it easier for them to make the transition,” said Julio Chun, a farmer and the community liaison for the concession. He told IPS that in the past, the farmers frequently used fires to clear the land.

Chun explained that farmers are already seeing the return of wildlife, such as the jaguar, and are excited by the possibilities.

“We would like to develop eco-tourism and the value-added products that can support the industry. Some visitors are already coming for the organic products and the honey,” he said.

Ya’axché co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a combined 311,607 hectares of public and privately owned forest. Its name, pronounced yash-cheh, is the Mopan Maya word for the Kapoc or Ceiba tree (scientific name: Ceiba pentandra), which is sacred to the Maya peoples.

Of the project’s future, Garcia said: “My wish is to see the project address the economic needs of the farmers, to get them to recognise the value of what they are doing in the concession and that the decision-makers can use the model as an example to make decisions on how forest reserves can be made available to communities across Belize and the region to balance nature and livelihoods.”

Scientists believe that well-managed ecosystems can help countries adapt to both current climate hazards and future climate change through the provision of ecosystem services, so the 5Cs has implemented a similar project in Saint Lucia under a 42-month project funded by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA+) to promote sustainable farming practices.

The cacao-based agroforestry project in Saint Lucia uses a mix-plantation model where farmers are allowed to continue using chemicals, but were taught to protect the environment. Like the Ya’axché project, Saint Lucia’s was designed to improve environmental conditions in the beneficiary areas; enhance livelihoods and build the community’s resilience to climate change.

In the next chapter, the Ya’axché farmers project is hoping that, among other things, a good samaritan will help them to add facilities for value-added products; acquire eco-friendly all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to move produce to access points; and replace a wooden bridge that leads to the main access road.

Tut and Chun both support the views of the group’s chair Isabel Rash, that farmers are already living through climate change, but that the hard work in manually “clearing and maintaining their plots and in chemical-free food production, saves them money”, supports a healthy working and living environment and should protect them against the impacts of climate change.

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Excerpt:

This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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How Guyana Must Prepare to Cope With the ‘Jeopardies and Perils’ of Oil Discoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/guyana-must-prepare-cope-jeopardies-perils-oil-discovery/#respond Mon, 03 Sep 2018 08:27:20 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157432 Recent huge offshore oil discoveries are believed to have set Guyana– one of the poorest countries in South America–on a path to riches. But they have also highlighted the country’s development challenges and the potential impact of an oil boom. Oil giant ExxonMobil has, over the last three years, drilled eight gushing discovery wells offshore […]

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The Essequibo River is the longest river in Guyana, and the largest river between the Orinoco and Amazon. As oil production in Guyana is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020, experts say the increasing environmental risks of more oil wells require increasing capacity to understand and manage these risks. Courtesy: Conservation International Guyana.

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sep 3 2018 (IPS)

Recent huge offshore oil discoveries are believed to have set Guyana– one of the poorest countries in South America–on a path to riches. But they have also highlighted the country’s development challenges and the potential impact of an oil boom.

Oil giant ExxonMobil has, over the last three years, drilled eight gushing discovery wells offshore with the potential to generate nearly USD20 billion in oil revenue annually by the end of the next decade.“These are the jeopardies and these are the perils that we have to prepare for. We should not take them for granted or believe that we are dealing with something that is so far removed from our consciousness or our reality that we don’t have to be prepared.” -- minister of natural resources Raphael Trotman

“For Guyana where the current oil sector is located offshore, the direct environmental risks are primarily associated with oil spills, but will also include emissions from the operations, and from seismic activities that can affect marine species,” Dr David Singh, executive director of Conservation International Guyana, told IPS.

“The environmental risk increases with the number of oil wells in any one area.”

Singh said increasing environmental risks require increasing capacity to understand and manage these risks.

From a regulatory standpoint, he said this means building the institutional capacity in step with the development of the industry.

“For civil society, the responsibility is ours to learn about the industry, to contribute to the creation of good policies and laws related to the industry, and to ensure the highest levels of accountability from the industry and from the state towards the environment,” he said.

“It also requires us to support companies and initiatives that are in the business of clean, renewable energy generation, and in supporting efforts to reduce our ecological footprint. Even as we focus on these efforts we are cognisant of the limited human and institutional capacity of the country which will have an impact on the design and application of good and responsible environmental and social safeguards.”

Several commentators have observed that senior government officials here have little experience regulating a big oil industry or negotiating with international companies.

But minister of natural resources Raphael Trotman said Guyana is prepared and has been building and strengthening its capacity to deal with the potential hazards that come with the development of an oil and gas sector.

He said no effort will be spared to ensure that Guyana puts a sound disaster risk reduction and management system in place so that it is prepared to prevent an oil spill or respond effectively should there be an accident in that regard.

“These are the jeopardies and these are the perils that we have to prepare for. We should not take them for granted or believe that we are dealing with something that is so far removed from our consciousness or our reality that we don’t have to be prepared,” Trotman told a national consultation on the drafting of the National Oil Spill Response Contingency Plan at the Civil Defence Commission’s.

“It has to be taken seriously and whilst the industry standards are very high, we do have a risk. We recognise that there is a risk. However, government is making every effort to prepare for that risk. We expect that in 24 months when we go to production in the first quarter of 2020, we will meet not only minimum standards expected, but we will go past that and dare to say to ourselves and particularly to the world that we are ready for any eventuality,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tyrone Hall, a PhD Candidate at York University, is urging those involved in civil society in Guyana, especially its environmental sector, to assess the exemplary efforts underway in Belize.

Hall, who has been studying the issue, notes Belize recently found itself at the centre of rare positive environmental news of global importance.

Its portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, arguably the world’s longest living barrier reef and certainly this region’s most iconic marine asset, was removed from the World Heritage Sites’ endangered category after nearly a decade (mid-2009 to June 2018), according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Centre.

The decision was taken after Belize ditched plans to rapidly expand its nascent oil industry.

“There are lesson we can draw from the Belizean experience for raising the bar and boldly re-imagining environmental responses in the face of a petro-economic reorientation,” Hall said.

“In other words, while oil exploration is unlikely to be halted in Guyana at this point, the environmental community, and broader civil society must not settle into vassal like, aid-recipient disposition.

“It should raise its expectations, and also challenge, contextualise and transcend the singularly economistic conventions being drawn from distance places,” Hall added.

ExxonMobil has made eight discoveries in Guyana’s waters to date.

Production is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020 with an estimated 120,000 barrels per day. This should increase to 220,000 barrels per day by 2022.

“What the oil revenues will allow us to do is to fulfil these dreams of the Guyanese people and to ensure that the quality of life for every citizen dramatically improves over a period of a few short years,” Trotman said.

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Mixed Signals as Guyana Develops its Green Economy Strategyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:52:57 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157293 Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president. The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. The country is making plans for a green economy while also looking to exploit its fossil fuel reserves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
GEORGETOWN, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president.
The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in the wake of a 2015 discovery of what has been termed one of the largest discoveries of oil and gas 120 miles off Guyana’s shores, which saw major international oil companies vying for exploration rights even as the government began work on a Green State Development Strategy.

Central to the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) is “the structural transformation of Guyana’s economy into a green and inclusive one [that] will recognise the economic value of the extractive sectors, instituting measures to ensure their environmental sustainability while facilitating new economic growth from a more diverse set of inclusive, green and high value-adding sectors.”

In line with its goal to transition to a green economy, Guyana entered into a seven-year partnership with Norway for a REDD+ investment fund, on the basis of its 19 million hectares of forest with a carbon sink capacity of 350 tons/hectare, in what it described as “the world‟s first national-scale, payment-for-performance forest conservation agreement.” The USD250 million investment fund from Norway is earmarked for pioneering Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.

At the same time, government agencies of this small South American country, the only English-speaking one on the continent, gave some assistance to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it researched the most effective measures for ensuring the Guyanese labour force developed the skills needed in a green economy.

The ILO agreed to respond to IPS’ queries about the seeming paradox of Guyana exploiting its fossil fuel reserves while making plans for a green economy, whereas repeated efforts by the IPS to obtain an interview with Guyana’s Office of Climate Change were unsuccessful.

Andrew Small, the consultant commissioned by the ILO to carry out the study on greening Guyana’s labour force, told IPS via e-mail that he thinks the country is indeed ready and positioning itself for a green economy. He pointed to changes in the education curricula at both secondary school and tertiary level, as well as efforts at encouraging climate smart agriculture. “Guyana is indeed a small country but a major contributor to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions from economic and social activities,” he said.

He also pointed out the move by some large businesses to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings and processes, and an attendant move by the government to enable further uptake of renewable energy. “In particular the Guyana Energy Agency and Guyana Power and Light Company are leading the final draft and implementation of the Draft Guyana Energy Policy (2017) and Guyana Energy Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), respectively. These policies outline anticipated energy demand, an optimal energy mix for Guyana including a 100 percent increase in renewable energy sources aligned to Guyana’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy,” he said.

However, with an estimated four billion barrels of oil in its waters, the pull of oil money has been creating a shift in focus for some who might potentially have taken up working in green jobs. Small admits, “The shift is already happening. The magnitude of this sector will attract many highly skilled Guyanese. There have been some local concerns expressed about this, in particular in the case of engineers from the Public Infrastructure Ministry or [with regard to those] who would otherwise seek employment with this Ministry among others.”

Apart from labour market concerns, it remains to be seen how Guyana will live up to its Nationally Determined Contributions tabled last year. The country promised “to avoid emissions in the amount of 48.7 MtCO2e annually if adequate incentives are provided”, on the basis of its forest cover. If the four billion barrel estimate given is correct, Guyana’s reserves alone represent almost four-fifths of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 estimate of the amount of energy that will be generated by Latin America’s industrial sector including its fossil fuel industry in the years leading up to 2030. The IPCC estimates the approximately 33 EJ of energy (roughly equivalent to 5.4 billion barrels of oil) Latin America will generate up to 2030 will result in 2,417 MtCO2 emissions, making Guyana’s promises in support of the Paris Agreement inconsequential in the light of emissions its billions of barrels would produce.

Still, the ILO Caribbean’s Enterprise and Job Creation Specialist Kelvin Sergeant told IPS that the impact of oil and gas exploration on the green transition could go either way. “It can be positive or negative. Positive if the resources from the oil sector are used to develop the green economy and ensure sustainability of the environment and the rest of the society, especially the more vulnerable in the society. If this is not done, then there could be many new problems in the future.”

The ILO commissioned the “Skills for green jobs” in Guyana study, which was completed in 2017, because his organisation believes a green economy is a sustainable one. “The ILO places great emphasis on greening of the economy and green jobs. This is critical towards sustainable economies and societies,” Sergeant said.

“The ILO, however, argues that policies towards greening of the economy will have an impact on workers. There will be job losses, job gains or jobs will be redefined. Because of this, the ILO believes that any policy towards greening of the economy should be just and fair and must leave no one behind.”

The focus on fossil fuels “can be only detrimental if there is no trickling down of the gains from the oil sector The whole process has to be carefully managed to avoid Dutch disease and other problems which have plagued Caribbean countries that have oil,” he said. “There needs to be careful policies which ensure that everyone benefits from the oil finds.”

But Sergeant remains upbeat about the future of Guyana’s green economy. He said the focus on fossil fuel exploration does not mean efforts to promote green skills for a green economy are pointless. “It does not have to, if the guidelines for a just transition are followed.”   

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When Salt Water Intrusion is Not Just a Threat But a Reality for Guyanese Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:46:03 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157018 Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies. The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and […]

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Kaieteur Falls, Guyana. Guyanese farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Courtesy: Dan Sloan/CC By 2.0

By Jewel Fraser
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies.

The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and on for the past 10 years, and he, like many other rice farmers in Regions 4 and 5 of Mahaica, Guyana, had sustained periodic financial losses due to the ocean overtopping the 200-year-old sea walls erected as barricades to the sea. And while 2015 was an unusually good year for Guyana’s rice harvest, the following year, 2016, saw a 16 percent drop in production.

Though the fall-off in production that year could not entirely be attributed to the salt water intrusion, expert sources say this was part of the problem. The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service’s Commodity Intelligence Report notes that reduced rice production “was due to myriad problems including drought, water rationing, salt water intrusion, lack of crop rotation, less fertiliser input, and slower and lower returns to farmers.” It added that for the first rice crop of 2016, “about 20 percent was affected by drought and another 15 percent had salt water intrusion on fields.”“The knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.” -- Heetasmin Singh

The rice-growing regions of Demerara-Mahaica and Berbice-Mahaica are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, located as they are six feet below sea level on Guyana’s Atlantic north coast.

Heetasmin Singh, who completed a master’s degree at the University of Guyana, presented a paper on the subject at the just concluded Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology, held Jul. 25-27 at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Following her presentation, she told IPS via e-mail of some of the concerns farmers in the region have.

She said, “Farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years, maybe as much as 10 years (or more) in certain regions of the country. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean (as opposed to a water conservancy or catchment)… the salt water intrusion is not just a threat, it is a reality for many of them.”

Farmer Mikesh’s son, Mark Ram, is a colleague of Singh as well as a scientific officer at the Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity at the University of Guyana. He told IPS that salt water intrusion normally occurs during the dry season when there is less fresh water because the rains have not fallen. He said the salinity had one of two effects on growing rice plants: it could either kill them or slow down their rate of growth,

“Usually, [salt water] affects the plant when they have just been planted because…we are required to flood the fields. So what we would do, we usually wait until it rains a bit, then flood the fields and add fertiliser. Then we release the water and then try to flood it again. It is at this time [when] the water becomes saline because the rain has not fallen that it affects the crop, it kills out the rice fields.” On the other hand, he said, “it can delay harvesting time because the rice is not going to grow as fast as it should.”

Sometimes, he said, “there is actual rotting of the plant” due to the water’s salinity.

To counteract the problems caused by salt water intrusion, farmers in the Mahaica region rely on fresh water supplies from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority. According to the USDA Commodity Intelligence Report, Guyana is “divided into water conservancy regions, [and] has developed an irrigation and dike infrastructure to help farmers use supplemental irrigation from reservoirs while protecting areas through levees from unseasonably heavy rains which could flood or erode land. To help the agricultural sector, starting in January 2016, Guyana’s National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) water authorities begin pumping available water into the drier conservancies.”

“Farmers ask the NDIA to release some of the fresh water from the major reservoirs,” Ram said.  “Once they receive this it reduces the salinity so that the water becomes usable.” However, no other adaptation or mitigation measures had so far been implemented by farmers, he said.

Singh noted via e-mail that “the knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.”

She added, “Many farmers I interviewed saw the effects of the soil salinisation on their crops but many were not familiar with the term climate change or were not adapting best practices for ameliorating soil salinisation. They instead sought to solve their low crop yields issues with more fertilisers which would end up doing more harm than good for the crops.”

However, she notes that some will flush their fields and allow water and the salts to percolate through and past the root zone of the crops. Others will ensure their soils are deep ploughed to ensure faster percolation of salts past their crop root zone. With sea level rises for Guyana projected to rise anywhere from 14 cm to 5.94 metres in 2031; from 21 cm to 6.02 metres in 2051; and from 25 cm to 6.19 metres in 2071, the need for proactive adaptation and mitigation measures becomes ever more urgent.

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Why the Flooding in Grenada is a Clear Reminder of its Vulnerability to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/flooding-grenada-clear-reminder-vulnerability-climate-change/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 08:47:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157093 Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding that once again highlights the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to climate change. Officials here say extreme weather events like in 2004 and 2005 are still fresh in the minds of residents. Rising sea levels are […]

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Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding. Courtesy: Desmond Brown

By Desmond Brown
ST GEORGE’S, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

Grenada is still tallying the damage after heavy rainfall last week resulted in “wide and extensive” flooding that once again highlights the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to climate change.
Officials here say extreme weather events like in 2004 and 2005 are still fresh in the minds of residents. Rising sea levels are leading to an erosion of coastlines, while hurricanes and tropical storms regularly devastate crucial infrastructure.

For three hours, between 9 am and 12 noon on Aug. 1, a tropical wave interacting with the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, lingered over the island, dumping several inches of rain, which resulted in rapidly-rising flood waters."We had so much rain over such a short period, the whole system was inundated, and it speaks clearly to the effects of climate change.”-- senator Winston Garraway, minister of state in the ministry of climate resilience.

The Maurice Bishop International Airport Meteorological Office recorded six inches of rain over the three-hour period, and officials said the interior of the island received significantly more rainfall. No recording of the island’s interior was immediately available.

“The flooding was wide and extensive,” senator Winston Garraway, minister of state in the ministry of climate resilience, told IPS.
“St. David and St George [parishes] were badly impacted and we have decided that both areas will be disaster areas.”

In St. David, Garraway said there were 60 landslides, and these have impacted on the road network in the parish which is the country’s main agriculture zone.

A total of nine homes in both parishes have been badly affected and families had to be relocated, Garraway said, adding that disaster officials are looking at either demolishing and rebuilding or relocating homes.
“The national stadium took a bad beating from the flood waters and this is likely to impact on activities going forward in the immediate future,” Garraway said.

Damage to the ground floor of the stadium also led to the postponement of one of the main carnival events.

Garraway, who also has responsibility for the environment, forestry, fisheries and disaster management, said the weather event was another clear remainder that Grenada and other SIDS are among the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

“We have been one of the strong proponents of the impact of climate change, so we’ve been training our people as it relates to mitigation measures. But we had so much rain over such a short period, the whole system was inundated, and it speaks clearly to the effects of climate change,” he said.

“One might ask, was there any chance of us mitigating against some of these challenges that we have seen? In some sense, I think yes, in a large sense, no. The system could not have absorbed the amount of water we had that short time.”

The minister of communication, works and public utilities, Gregory Bowen, agrees with Garraway that events like these highlight the effects of climate change on SIDS.

Bowen said there is an urgent need for grant financing to help at the community level.

“A lot of the flood waters passed through private lands. The state is responsible for state properties, but for private people, the size of drains that would have to run through their properties, they can’t afford it,” Bowen told IPS.

“So that is one area that we have to work on, getting granting financing to help the people. Because the rains come, and it will find its own path and it’s usually through private lands. If you have good drains you could properly channel the run off.

“So that is one critical component that we have to move on immediately. Millions of dollars are needed to be spent on that,” Bowen added.
But he said the island simply cannot afford to cover these costs, noting that Grenada only recently concluded a three-year, International Monetary Fund supported Structural Adjustment Programme.

While the formal impact assessment is still being done by the ministry of works in collaboration with the ministry of finance, officials here have already reached out to regional partners for support.

Garraway said officials at the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, have been in touch with local disaster management officials to ascertain the extent of the damage and the immediate assistance needed.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist in the ministry of health, Dr. Shawn Charles, has advised residents to stay away from the stagnant water resultant from the flooding. He warned that they may not only be contaminated with debris such as broken bottles and plastics, but pathogens that can cause life-threatening conditions.

“Flood water from the level of rainfall we received from that tropical wave is normally contaminated with all kinds of things and it’s not wise for anyone to expose themselves to it. There are all kinds of contaminants that can impact differently, so swimming, running and doing other things in that type of contaminated water should be avoided,” Charles told IPS.

“One of the life-threatening contaminants in flood water is droplets and urine from rats and that is the main transmitter for leptospirosis, and that disease can cause death. So, it’s not advisable for a person to just go about exposing themselves to flood water. It is just not wise; it can result in sickness. People need to be very cautious. Personal contact with flooded water should be avoided.”

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VIDEO: Climate Change Could Have Devastating Consequences for Saint Luciahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/video-climate-change-devastating-consequences-saint-lucia/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 11:14:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157104 The Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia is home to more than 2,000 native species — of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else in the world. Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, the island is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by […]

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Climate Change Could Have Devastating Consequences for Saint Lucia

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 7 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia is home to more than 2,000 native species — of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else in the world. Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, the island is exceptionally rich in animals and plants.

Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers.

But a major conservation organisation warns that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake. Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action. He urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

 

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Caribbean Builds Resilience Through Enhanced Data Collectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/caribbean-builds-resilience-enhanced-data-collection/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:53:30 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156973 By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean. At the same time, the centre […]

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Meteorologists and hydro-met technicians assemble one of the 40 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) being installed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Program (USAID CCAP). Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean.

At the same time, the centre is also installing an additional 50 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) across nine countries to expand the existing network of hydro-meteorological stations- yet another push to improve data collection in the region. The data will help scientists to better evaluate potential risks and impacts, and provide the information national leaders seek to build more resilient infrastructures to mitigate climate risks.

Enhancing the data collection and availability is central to the centre’s mandate to prepare the Caribbean’s response to climate change, Dr Ulric Trotz science advisor and deputy executive director told IPS.

He noted: “Experts here are using the critical data they collect, to enhance models, design tools and develop strategies to mitigate and build resilience to the devastating impacts – rising seas, longer dry spells, more extreme rainfall and potentially higher impact tropical cyclones – associated with climate variability and change.”

Reporting in “Volume 1 of the Caribbean Climate Series,” released ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  in Germany in 2017, researchers at the University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group, Mona Campus, Jamaica, pointed out that the Caribbean is already experiencing the impacts associated with changes in climatic conditions.

According to the report, nights and days are warmer; air and sea surface temperatures are higher and there are longer and more frequent periods of droughts. Not surprisingly, after the 2017 hurricane season, researchers also reported increasing intensity in rainfalls and more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and lots more rain.

“Even if global warming beyond the 1°C already experienced were limited to only a further half a degree, there would still be consequences for the Caribbean region,” the report said.

Trotz explained: “These data gathering systems, which were acquired with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Programme, are increasing the volume of real-time data and enhancing the reliability and accuracy of weather and climate forecasting in the region”.

In addition to the super computers installed at CCCCC’s Belize location, the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus and Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)-under previous projects- the newly installed data points, are already enhancing the capacity of regional scientists to monitor and process the atmospheric and other environmental variables that are affected by the changes in climatic conditions.

The data collection efforts support evidence-based decision-making, and improve the accuracy of the projections from the regional and global climate models while building the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate variability and change. In the end, the information provided in the 1.5 Report which will form part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global assessment report AR6 as well as all other Caribbean forecasts and models promises to be more accurate and reliable.

“The data collected from these stations forms the baseline for all climate modelling, ensuring that we have a good baseline data to suffice our regional climate services models for regional forecast and predictions. The network strengthens the baseline for climate change projection models thereby increasing the confidence in the results that are used in the decision-making for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Albert Jones, instrumentation technician at the 5Cs, told IPS.

The retired weather forecaster explained, that the new AWS are not only improving data collection, they are also expanding the capability and roles of local Met Offices from their historic roles of providing information for primarily aviation purposes.

The importance of these systems cannot be understated, particularly in countries like Guyana and Suriname where deficiencies in the data seriously hampers the coverage of areas with significant differences in the topography and climatic conditions. This is especially significant where comparisons of hinterland and elevated forested areas to the low-lying coastal flood plains are critical to development of lives and property.

The centre, which celebrates its 14th year of operation in July 2018, has worked with several donors over its existence to improve the collection of data in a region that largely depended on manual systems and where historical data has been hard to come by. The latter is an essential input for validation of the regional models required for the production of region-specific climate scenarios, which are utilised in impact studies across all of the affected sectors in the region. These in turn form the basis of crafting the adaptation responses required to build climate resilience in specific sectors.

Popularly known as the 5Cs, the climate change centre carries out its mandate through a network of partners including government meteorologists, hydrologists, university professors and researchers. Scientists and researchers in Universities across the region and at specialist institutions like the Barbados-based CIMH, do the data crunching.

“We are building climate and weather early warning systems to build resilience, so it is important that we collect and turn this data into useful information that will benefit the society,” CIMH’s principal Dr David Farrell told hydro-met technicians at a USAID sponsored training on the grounds of the institute in March.

He noted that in designing the system, the CIMH- that has responsibility for maintaining the network- identified and reduced existing deficiencies to improve the quality of data collected.

And as global temperatures continue to soar, the World Meteorological Organisation 2018 report noted that 2017 was “was one of the world’s three warmest years on record.”

It said: “A combination of five datasets, three of them using conventional surface observations and two of them re-analysis, shows that global mean temperatures were 0.46 °C ± 0.1 °C above the 1981–2010 average, and about 1.1 °C ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels. By this measure, 2017 and 2015 were effectively indistinguishable as the world’s second and third warmest years on record, ranking only behind 2016, which was 0.56 °C above the 1981−2010 average.”

With studies pointing to a warmer Caribbean and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, regional scientists are committed to improving the way they use data to guide governments on the actions that will lessen the expected impacts. In 2017, extreme weather events in the form of Hurricanes Irma and Maria claimed lives, destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure, throwing islands like Barbuda, Dominica and the Virgin Islands back several decades.

In identifying extreme weather events as “the most prominent risk facing humanity”, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018 noted: “Fuelled by warm sea-surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States, and eradicated decades of development gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica. Floods uprooted millions of people on the Indian subcontinent, whilst drought is exacerbating poverty and increasing migration pressures in the Horn of Africa.”

The CREWS network is part of a global system to improve the monitoring and management of coral reefs as environmental and climatic conditions increases coral bleaching and death. The centre works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration to install monitoring stations that collect data on climate, marine and biological parameters for use by scientists to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in changing climatic and sea conditions.

Under previous funding arrangements, CREWS stations were also installed in Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, as well as other parts of the region.

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Building the Caribbean’s Climate Resilience to Ensure Basic Survivalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-caribbeans-climate-resilience-ensure-basic-survival/#respond Mon, 23 Jul 2018 09:13:01 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156816 In 2004, when the Category 4 hurricane Ivan hit the tiny island nation of Grenada and its 151 mph winds stalled overhead for 15 hours–it devastated the country. But not before pummelling Barbados and other islands, killing at least 15 people. And again last year, the destruction left behind in several Caribbean islands by Hurricanes […]

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Grenada has rebounded after being destroyed by Category 4 hurricane Ivan in 2004 which destroyed 90 percent of homes. More than a decade later, the island’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST GEORGE’S, Jul 23 2018 (IPS)

In 2004, when the Category 4 hurricane Ivan hit the tiny island nation of Grenada and its 151 mph winds stalled overhead for 15 hours–it devastated the country. But not before pummelling Barbados and other islands, killing at least 15 people.

And again last year, the destruction left behind in several Caribbean islands by Hurricanes Irma and Maria once again highlighted the vulnerability of these island countries.

It has also emphasised the need for a strong natural resource base to protect and make communities and ecosystems more resilient to the impacts of climate change, which are expected to become even more severe in the future.“We have seen first-hand how poverty and social weaknesses magnify natural disasters. This need not be the case.” -- Grenada’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

“Building the region’s resilience to climate change, natural hazards and environmental changes is not only a necessary and urgent development imperative, but it is also a fundamental requirement to ensure our basic survival as a people,” Grenada’s prime minister Dr. Keith Mitchell told IPS.

“We have no choice as a region but to pursue climate-smart development, as we forge ahead to build a climate-resilient Caribbean.”

Grenada is among 10 Caribbean countries getting help from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to address water, land and biodiversity resource management as well as climate change.

Under the five-year Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF-IWEco Project), countries are implementing national sub-projects at specific sites in order to enhance livelihood opportunities and socio-economic co-benefits for targeted communities from improved ecosystem services functioning.

Project sites include the upper reaches of the Soufriere Watershed in Saint Lucia, the Cedar Grove and Cooks Watershed areas and McKinnons Pond in Antigua, and the Negril Morass in Jamaica.

“Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning,” Mitchell said.

“In practice, this will require a shift in focus, from sustainable development to climate-smart sustainable development.”

In addition to Grenada―Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago ―are also participating in the project, which also aims to strengthen policy, legislative and institutional reforms and capacity building.

Half of the 10 countries ― Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and; St. Vincent & the Grenadines ― belong to the sub-regional grouping, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Their participation in the project is being funded by the GEF to the tune of USD20 million.

IWEco is being co-implemented by United Nations Environment and the U.N. Development Programme and co-executed by U.N. Environment’s Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (U.N. Environment CAR RCU), which is the Secretariat to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (the Cartagena Convention).

All OECS countries are signatories to the Cartagena Convention, a comprehensive, umbrella agreement for the protection and development of the marine environment.

Fresh and coastal water resources management, sustainable land management and sustainable forest management are all challenges to Caribbean SIDS, and more so as the region’s economies face numerous demands and, inevitably, another hurricane season.

Addressing these challenges while improving social and ecological resilience to the impacts of climate change are objectives of the IWEco Project.

Stating that storms and hurricanes do not have to result in catastrophic disasters, Mitchell said in too many instances in the region this has been the case because of the prevailing susceptibilities of communities.

“We have seen first-hand how poverty and social weaknesses magnify natural disasters. This need not be the case,” he said.

“We must redouble our efforts to improve the conditions for the most vulnerable in our societies so that they are empowered and supported to manage disasters and climate risks.”

Grenada, along with all participating countries, will benefit from regional project activities aimed at strengthening policy, legislative and institutional frameworks, strengthening monitoring and evaluation, and public awareness.

At a recent meeting in Montserrat, the regional coordinator of the Cartagena Convention, Dr. Lorna Inniss noted that since the particularly destructive hurricane season of 2017, perhaps even as a consequence of it, the trend in the region towards consolidating several related areas of responsibility into single ministries seems to have grown.

Grenada, for instance, now has the combined ministry of climate resilience, the environment, forestry, fisheries, disaster management and information. Dominica now has the ministry of environment, climate resilience, disaster management and urban renewal.

The most recent projections in climate research all anticipate a significant increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, as well as slow onset climate-related changes, such as sea-level rise, less rainfall and increased sea surface temperatures.

These impacts can disrupt Grenada’s economy and critical economic sectors like agriculture and tourism and damage critical infrastructure and personal property.

The findings of a regional study concluded that climate change has the potential to increase the overall cost to local economies by one to three percent of GDP by 2030 in the Caribbean. It also alters the risk profile of the islands by impacting local sea levels, hurricane intensity, precipitation patterns and temperature patterns.

According to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), in absolute terms, expected losses may triple between 2010 and 2030. Climate change adaptation is therefore critical for the economic stability of the tri-island state.

“Charting a course to 2030 is even more an urgent requirement as the impacts of climate change are increasingly affecting CCRIF’s Caribbean and Central American member countries,” CCRIF CEO, Isaac Anthony said.

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Strengthening Cuban Coastal Landscape in the Face of Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 21:42:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156610 Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe. A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea […]

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The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
MAISÍ, Cuba, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe.

A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea level. Standing there since 1862, it is an icon of the municipality of Maisí, in the province of Guantánamo, in the east of this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million inhabitants.

“Occasionally there’s a cyclone. Matthew recently passed by and devastated this area,” said Hidalgo Matos, who has been the lighthouse keeper for more than 40 years.

Matos was referring to the last major disaster to strike the area, when Hurricane Matthew, category four on the one to five Saffir-Simpson scale, hit Guantánamo on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

Thanks to this rare trade, which has been maintained from generation to generation by the three families who live next to the lighthouse, the 64-year-old Matos has seen from the privileged height of the tower the fury of the sea and the winds from the hurricanes that are devastating Cuba and other Caribbean islands, more and more intensely due to climate change.

“One of the benefits of the area is that the majority of the population makes a living from fishing,” said the lighthouse-keeper.

This is the main reason why coastal populations are reluctant to leave their homes by the sea, and even return after being relocated to safer areas inland.

Facing this and other obstacles, the Cuban authorities in the 1990s began to modify the management of coastal areas, which was accelerated with the implementation in 2017 of the first government plan to address climate change, better known as Life Task.

Currently, more than 193,000 people live in vulnerable areas, in conditions that will only get worse, as the sea level is forecast to rise 27 centimetres by 2050 and 85 centimetres by 2100.

The relocation of coastal communities and the restoration of native landscapes are key to boosting resilience in the face of extreme natural events.

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change - the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change – the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Scientists say that natural elements of coastal protection such as sandy beaches, sea grasses, reefs and mangroves cushion the tides.

Of the country’s 262 coastal settlements, 121 are estimated to be affected by climate change. Of these, 67 are located on the north coast, which was affected almost in its entirety by the powerful Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and 54 are in the south.

In total, 34,454 people, 11,956 year-round homes, 3,646 holiday homes and 1,383 other facilities are at risk.

Cuban authorities reported that 93 of the 262 coastal settlements had been the target of some form of climate change adaptation and mitigation action by 2016.

Measures for relocation to safer areas were also being carried out in 65 of these communities, 25 had partial plans for housing relocation, 22 had to be completely relocated from the shoreline, and another 56 were to be reaccommodated, rehabilitated and protected.

“There are no plans to move any settlements or people in the municipality because after Cyclone Matthew everything was moved,” said Eddy Pellegrin, a high-level official in the government of Maisí, with a population of 28,752 people who depend mostly on agriculture.

“Since 2015 we have been working on it. From that year to 2017, we relocated some 120 people,” he said in an interview with IPS in Punta de Maisí.

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A total of 840 people live along the 254 km of coastline in this municipality, “who are not in dangerous or vulnerable places,” the official said, discussing the national programme to manage the coastal area that Maisí is preparing to conclude with a local development project.

“There is no need to make new investments in the coastal area, what remains is to plant sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) to increase production,” he said of a local development project that consists of planting these bushes typical of the beaches, to restore the natural protective barrier and produce wine from the fruit.

Punta de Maisí and Boca de Jauco are the areas to be reforested with sea grape plants.

Pellegrin added that coconut groves – a key element of Guantánamo’s economy – will be replanted 250 m from the coast.

Maisí is an illustration of the long-term challenges and complexities of coastal management, ranging from the demolition of poorly located homes and facilities, to changing the economic alternatives in those communities that depend on fishing, to major engineering works.

Guantánamo has been hit continuously in recent years by major hurricanes: Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017), in addition to the severe drought between 2014 and 2017 that affected virtually the entire country.

“The latest atmospheric phenomena have affected the entire coastal area,” Daysi Sarmiento, an official in the government of the province of Guantánamo, told IPS.

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Now Baracoa Bay is being dredged,” said Sarmiento, referring to Baracoa, the first town in the area built by the Spaniards in colonial times, which faces the worst coastal risks.

The dredging is part of investments expected to be completed in September to protect Baracoa’s coast, which is highly vulnerable to floods, hurricanes and tsunamis.

By August 2017, the authorities had eliminated more than 900 state facilities and 673 private buildings from beaches nationwide. On the sandy coasts in this area alone, a total of 14,103 irregularly-built constructions were identified at the beginning of the Life Task plan.

The central provinces of Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spíritus are the only ones that today have beaches free of zoning and urban planning violations.

There are at least six laws that protect the coastline in various ways, in particular Decree-Law 212 on “Coastal Area Management”, which has been in force since 2000 and prohibits human activities that accelerate natural soil erosion, a problem that had not been given importance for decades.

“The community has grown further away from the coast,” sports coach Milaydis Griñán told IPS. She defines herself as Cuba’s “first inhabitant” because of the proximity of her humble home to the Punta de Maisí lighthouse, which is still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Matthew.

“The risks have been high because we are very close to the beach, especially when there is a storm or hurricane or tsunami alert, but we don’t have plans for relocation inland,” she said.

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Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Saint Lucia’s Biodiversityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/urgent-action-needed-safeguard-saint-lucias-biodiversity/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 08:43:33 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156592 Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could […]

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Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, including the parrot.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

“With climate change, countries like St. Lucia [experience] significant weather events. The increase in hurricanes, the increase in bad weather and mudslides – these are incredible consequences of climate change,” Southey said.“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags," Sean Southey, chair of the Commission on Education and Communication.

Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake.

Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action, and he urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

“The smallness of islands allows for real society to get involved. What it means is helping people connect to the environment,” Southey said.

“It means that they need to know and feel and appreciate that their individual behaviours make a difference. Especially the biodiversity decisions [like] land use planning. If you are going to sell your family farm, do you sell for another commercial tourist resort, do you sell it to make a golf course or do you sell it to [produce] organic bananas? These are the type of individual decisions that people have to make that protect an island or hurt an island,” he said.

Southey added that thoughtful management of mangroves and effective management of shorelines, “can create natural mechanisms that allow you to cushion and protect society from the effects of climate change.”

 

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

The CEC chair said recent extreme weather events have forced people in the Caribbean to understand climate change more than inhabitants from other countries in the world do.

“If you’re over the age of 30 in the Caribbean, you’ve seen a change in weather patterns. It’s not a story that you hear on the news, it’s a reality that you feel during hurricane season every year. So I believe there is an understanding,” he said.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through many of St. Lucia’s neighbouring islands, including Barbuda.

The category five hurricane wreaked havoc on Barbuda’s world-famous frigate bird colony. Most of the 10,000-frigate bird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.

While many countries in the Caribbean are working on building natural barriers and nature-based solutions in response to climate change, Southey still believes there needs to be a greater strengthening of that sense that people can actually do something to contribute.

Reducing plastic waste

In June 2016, Antigua took the lead in the Caribbean with a ban on the commercial use of plastic bags.

The island’s environment and health minister Molwyn Joseph said the decision was made in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic bags that end up in the watercourses and wetlands.

“We are giving our mangroves a fighting chance to be a source of healthy marine life, that can only benefit us as a people,” he said.

Antigua also became the first country within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the second within the Caribbean Community, to ratify the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

On Jul. 3 this year, one of the Caribbean’s largest supermarket chains launched a campaign to discourage the use of single use plastic bags for bagging groceries at its checkout counters, while actively encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags as a more eco-friendly option.

Managing director of Massy Stores St. Lucia Martin Dorville said the company is focused on finding more permanent solutions to reducing plastic waste and its own demand for plastic bags.

He said the decision to encourage customers to use less plastic was bold, courageous and will help manage the adverse impacts of single use plastic on the environment.

“I am very thrilled that one of the number one supermarkets has decided to ban all plastic bags. It’s a small behaviour but it helps everyone realise that their individual actions make a difference,” Southey told IPS.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags, so I was very appreciative of that. But what I really liked is that when I spent over USD100, they gave me a recyclable bag as a bonus to encourage me to use that as an individual so that my behaviour can make a difference,” he said.

He added that if school children could understand the importance of mangroves and complex eco-systems and the need to protect forests, wildlife and endangered birds “then I think we can make a huge difference.”

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Beyond Hurricanes: How Do We Finance Resilience in the Caribbean?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/beyond-hurricanes-finance-resilience-caribbean/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:40:50 +0000 Deodat Maharaj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156122 Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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A woman walks in the street of Roseau, capital of Dominica, which has struggled to overcome the severe impact of two category 5 hurricanes which tore through the region in September 2017. Credit: UNICEF/Moreno Gonzalez

By Deodat Maharaj
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As a new hurricane season approaches in the Caribbean, I attended last week’s dialogue focused on “Financing Resilience in SIDS” held in Antigua and Barbuda and sponsored by the host government and Belgium.

The gathering sought to identify the main risks facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS), especially in terms of financing and innovative solutions to the countries’ challenges.

These vastly different SIDS have much in common. There was a clear recognition that the splendor of their beauty, wealth of their culture and vibrancy of their people mask a deep vulnerability to both natural disasters and economic shocks, which are further exacerbated by climate change.

This is true for Caribbean countries and beyond. In addition to the Caribbean, participants at the event last week also included representatives from Africa, Indian Ocean and the Pacific, from their Permanent Missions to the UN.

The hurricanes of last September 2017 that devastated our host, Antigua and Barbuda, and other Caribbean countries provided a compelling testimonial to this “new normal”. Dominica lost 226 percent of its GDP and a generation of development gains in a matter of hours with the passage of Hurricane Maria.

In our host country, the island of Barbuda endured a similar fate just 10 days earlier after Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction. The story is very much the same in other SIDS, such as Vanuatu and Fiji, which suffered massive losses from Cyclones Pam and Winston in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Notwithstanding the compelling narrative of adverse weather events, there are also other challenges, which hamper the ability to build resilient Small Island Developing States. As a UNDP presenter, I emphasized that resilience in the context of SIDS should be holistic and not exclusively associated with hurricanes and natural disasters.

The outcome document, “The St John’s Call for Action” clearly recognized that building resilience in the Caribbean is about managing the risks associated with natural disasters, but this entails much more than hurricanes, as our Human Development Report for the Caribbean also stressed.

One big challenge is accessing finance. SIDS are largely classified as middle or high-income countries with limited access to concessional financing and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

This is compounded by high levels of debt in places such as the Caribbean, which is one of the world’s most highly indebted regions. Indeed, its debt burden stands at an estimated $52 billion with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 70 percent. In some countries, debt levels are more than 100 percent of GDP.

At the same time, due to the small geographical and population size, SIDS invariably have a narrow tax base, limiting the ability to mobilize resources domestically. Mindful of these constraints, the St John’s Call to Action made some specific recommendations.

The role and importance of innovation was placed at the forefront on the way forward. Peter Thomson, the UN’s Special Envoy for Oceans made a compelling case for the blue economy—or boosting sustainable use of the ocean’s resources for gains in the social, economic and environmental realms—as a viable policy option.

The example of Seychelles and the launch of the World’s first Blue Bond was cited. Such Blue Bonds will help mobilize public and private resource to advance the Blue Economy, including through sustainable fisheries.

It was also noted that UNDP has started preparatory work to help Grenada launch a Blue Bond as well, which will be the first in the Caribbean. The outcome statement was clear on the importance of focusing on the green economy and transition to renewables.

Recognizing that innovation is required in financing, a call was made to rethink the role the diaspora plays in building resilience and providing the financial resources. In the Caribbean, remittances exceed foreign direct investment and ODA combined.

I made the point that the region needs to facilitate approaches that orient remittances toward investment instead of almost exclusively on consumption. Based on the experience of SIDS and the huge costs of recovery post disasters, the importance of new insurance products to help manage the risks faced by SIDS is a key issue.

The ”St John’s Call for Action”spoke to the need for sustained global advocacy for the recognition of SIDS’ vulnerability as a criterion to access concessional financing. At the same time, there must be a clear recognition that to attract the financing to build resilience and reach the SDGs, private capital is essential.

Attracting it is hard work; and creating an enabling environment is a necessary first step. Caribbean SIDS must work hard to improve the ease of doing business and lower energy costs, which represent major obstacles to attracting foreign direct investment. SIDS representatives also agreed on the importance not only of getting additional financing but also on the value of intensifying collaboration between and among the countries. UNDP with its global expertise and access has key role to play.

Therefore, teaming up, building partnerships and sharing innovative experiences, including through the UNDP-backed Aruba Centre of Excellence Sustainable Development of SIDS is a crucial and urgent step. There is no magic pill or easy solution.

The “St John’s Call for Action” by its very nature emphasized that the time to talk is over; the time to act is now. UNDP will continue to be a strong partner of SIDS, together, in the same boat.

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Excerpt:

Deodat Maharaj is UNDP Senior Advisor for the Caribbean

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New GCF Project Signals Paradigm Shift for Water-Scarce Barbadoshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-gcf-project-signals-paradigm-shift-water-scarce-barbados/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:02:28 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155338 At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 

 For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project […]

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Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Dr. Donneil Cain (right), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre's (CCCCC) project development specialist who worked with the BWA on the Barbados Water Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project, in discussion with Dr. Adrian Cashman from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill on the educational institutions that assisted with the project's development. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

At the start of 2017, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPN) warned eastern Caribbean countries that they were facing “abnormal climate conditions” and possibly another full-blown drought. 



For Barbados, it was dire news. Previous drought conditions impacted every sphere and sector of life of this historically water-scarce country. But a new project promises a new water future for Barbadians by increasing the awareness of islanders to the water cycle and the likely impacts of climate change on the island’s drinking water supply.

The Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project for Barbados (WSRN S-Barbados) is expected to build resilience in the sector by reducing the vulnerability to severe weather impacts, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce consumption, promote appropriate uses of diverse water sources and build the legislative safeguards to support climate smart development in water sector.

The project is being funded by the Green Climate Fund and is a collaborative effort between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) with assistance from University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI-CHC), and University of South Florida (USF).

WSRN-Barbados was one of several Caribbean funding commitments announced at the GCF 19th Board meeting in Korea in February to the tune of 45.2 million dollars (including 27.6 million in GCF funds and counterpart funding of 17.6 million from the BWA).

“To quantify the impact, there will be over 190,000 persons directly benefitting from this project and over 280,000 persons indirectly benefitting,” said Dr Elon Cadogan, project manager at the BWA.

He explains that within the project, there are provisions for collaboration among academic partners like UWI-CHC and USF. The aim is to develop a sharing platform that will serve as an incubator for novel ideas that will boost efforts to combat the impact of climate change and propel the discussion on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“This project proposes to gather the relevant human resources from these institutions and form a team of scientists and engineers to drive the in-depth operational research to build capacity,” Dr Cadogan explained.

The WSRN S-Barbados project will replace 16 kilometres (about 10 miles) of existing mains to reduce leakage by 0.03 MGD per km. This is expected to result in greater availability of water, which when valued at current costs, is an avoided expense to society of 1.3 million dollars.

“Increased availability of water will reduce the instances of water outages currently being experienced by many customers,” Dr. Cadogan explained.

“Previous instances of outages have had the adverse effects of persons reporting for work late or absent from work and businesses closing. Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” he continued.

Tourism is one of the backbones of Barbados’ economy. In 2014, the total contribution of tourism and travel accounted for 36.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 37.5 percent of total employment (WTTC, 2015).

Another vital sector is agriculture. Agriculture, which in 2014 contributed 1.4 percent (value-added) of GDP and employed 2.7 percent of total employment (WDI, 2016), is essential for food and nutrition security and household income.

From the feasibility study, it was found that Barbados’ already dwindling water resources are not sufficient to meet demand in the medium to long terms. Implicit in that analysis is the demand for water by the tourism and agriculture sectors.

“This project contributes to the stability of Barbados’ macroeconomic environment, mitigates its susceptibility to inflationary pressures and external shocks and increases revenue to the government,” Dr Cadogan said.

“Barbados will benefit from foreign currency savings resulting from reduced dependence on fossil fuels due to the installation of photovoltaic panels. Barbados imported 322.7 million dollars of crude oil (2014 figures) and a significant portion is used in the production of electricity and transportation.”

The WSRN S-Barbados project will ensure that there is improved resilience to climate change and that communities have access to clean potable water.

Additional benefits include reduced leakage and the related number of disruptions, increased water available to the public, a stable price for water, increased water and food security via storage and rainwater harvesting, improved/increased resilience to storm events, and increased access to adaptation and mitigation financing (micro-adaptation and mitigation funding).

With respect to vulnerable populations as well as hospitals, polyclinics, schools and community centres, water tanks for water storage will be installed.

The project is expected to create 30 new jobs at the Belle Pumping Station, while the efforts to implement rainwater harvesting initiatives will create another 15 new jobs.

“In addition, the BWA will also ensure that Barbados plays its part to reduce the fossil fuel consumption by engaging in renewable energy solutions by the use of photovoltaic technologies. By using RE technologies, this would ensure that the Government of Barbados would have some stability with respect to tariffs and therefore be able to assist the most vulnerable on the island,” Dr Cadogan said.

“It is also envisioned that there will be (a) enhanced capacity, knowledge and climate resilience in institutions, households and communities, (b) improved knowledge on water conservation and recycling and (c) improved policy and legislative environment for climate proofing and building climate resilience,” he added.

Meanwhile, over at the CCCCC, the regional agency charged with coordinating the region’s response to climate change, project development specialist Dr. Donneil Cain, the point man on the WSRN-Barbados, is looking for the next opportunity for resilience-building in the region.

“This is why we do it,” he said. “The satisfaction comes from getting these projects up and running.”

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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Back-to-Back Hurricanes Take Heavy Toll on the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:58:24 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152351 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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A seven-year old boy stands in front of debris as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Credit: UNICEF/UN0119399

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

As you know, we are coming off a jam-packed High-level week and opening of the General Assembly. Some of the most important speeches during that period came from leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless. The Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front line of the war on climate change”.

Today I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday (October 7) to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there.

When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries. Yes, they said, we urgently need support today. But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.

As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world. I would like to share some relevant data about what we are seeing.

First, some facts about this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometers per hour for 37 hours — the longest on record at that intensity.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico.

It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season.

Second, some facts about the changes in major climate systems. Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled.

Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather. Climate change is warming the seas. This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere. When storms come, they bring more rain.

A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean. The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges. With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.

Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected. To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance; and much else.

We have launched appeals for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead. I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need, including those doing so through South-South cooperation.

But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor. I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come. The United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

We are strongly committed to helping small island states and, indeed, all countries to adapt to inevitable climate impacts, to increase the pace of recovery and to strengthen resilience overall. Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude.

We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change. But we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future. Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.

That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know. But today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action.

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Excerpt:

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Latest Major Hurricane Leaves Dominica “Devastated”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:07:56 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152156 As Hurricane Maria continues to barrel its way across the Caribbean, details are slowly emerging of the number of deaths and the extent of the devastation left in its wake in Dominica. Maria made landfall on the tiny island of 72,000 on the evening of Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles […]

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A tree felled by the outer bands of Hurricane Maria in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A tree felled by the outer bands of Hurricane Maria in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

As Hurricane Maria continues to barrel its way across the Caribbean, details are slowly emerging of the number of deaths and the extent of the devastation left in its wake in Dominica.

Maria made landfall on the tiny island of 72,000 on the evening of Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour.“Our governments must redouble their determination to confront the naysayers of climate change, however big and powerful they may be." --Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird

Hartley Henry, Principal Advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said he had spoken with the prime minister early this morning via satellite phone.

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed, as a direct result of the hurricane,” Henry said in a message. “That figure, the Prime Minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities today, Wednesday. The urgent needs now are roofing materials for shelters, bedding supplies for hundreds stranded in or outside what’s left of their homes and food and water drops for residents of outlying districts inaccessible at the moment.

“The country is in a daze – no electricity, no running water – as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities and definitely to landline or cellphone services on island, and that will be for quite a while.

“In summary, the island has been devastated. The housing stock significantly damaged or destroyed. All available public buildings are being used as shelters; with very limited roofing materials evident. The country needs the support and continued help and prayers of all.”

In a Facebook message a few hours after Maria’s arrival, Skerrit said the island’s immediate priority was to rescue people who were trapped and provide medical care to the injured.

“I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating… indeed, mind-boggling,” Skerrit said.

The Prime Minister had earlier posted that roofs were being torn off everywhere by the powerful storm’s winds. He himself had to be rescued from his official residence.

Following Skerrit’s social media posts, everything went silent. Communication with Dominica since then has been close to impossible.

According to Henry, “Little contact has been made with the outer communities but persons who walked 10 and 15 miles towards the city of Roseau from various outer districts report total destruction of homes, some roadways and crops.

“Urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter. Canefield airport can accommodate helicopter landings and it is expected that from today, the waters around the main Roseau port will be calm enough to accommodate vessels bringing relief supplies and other forms of assistance.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Wednesday, “The last I’ve heard, which would have been this morning, is that there is widespread damage to property, there has been up to seven fatalities so far. I understand that there are some remote areas that they have been unable to get to.

“They are asking for supplies including tarpaulin, water, food cots. As you know, in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, we have some supplies here. We are awaiting the all-clear so that a chopper that we have on stand-by could fly into Dominica. They have not given any landing permission yet so we are just waiting to hear from them.

Browne added that he spoke with Skerrit the night of the hurricane until after he lost his roof.

Dominica was still in the recovery phase following Tropical Storm Erika which hit the island on Aug. 27, 2015, killing more than two dozen people, leaving nearly 600 homeless and wreaked damages totalling more than a billion dollars.

That storm dumped 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island, caused floods and mudslides and set the country back 20 years, according to Skerrit. The island was inadequately prepared for a storm such as Erika. Many roads and bridges were simply not robust enough to withstand such high volumes of water.

In a national address shortly following the storm, Skerrit said that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads had been destroyed and millions of dollars in financial aid were needed to help the country bounce back.

“In order to get back to where we were before Tropical Storm Erika struck, we have to source at least 88.2 million dollars for the productive sector, 334.55 million for infrastructure and 60.09 million for the social sectors,” Skerrit said.

Skerrit and his counterparts in the Caribbean have long argued that large industrialized nations are to blame for the drastic change in the climate and the more frequent and stronger hurricanes being witnessed in region.

“Climate change is real.  We are the victims of climate change because of the profligacy in the use of fossil fuels by the large industrialized nations,” Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne told IPS on his way to the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

“These nations, that have contributed to global warming and sea level rise, have an obligation to assist in the rebuilding of these islands. The funds required to rebuild is beyond their means and I join the clarion call of Sir Richard Branson, for a Marshall plan to rebuild the islands.

“Our common humanity, as citizens of a common space, called planet earth mandates a spirit of empathy and cooperation among all nations, large and small,” Browne told IPS.

Just over a week earlier, Browne’s own country Antigua and Barbuda suffered a similar fate as Dominica when Hurricane Irma decimated Barbuda, the smaller island of the twin-island nation.

A powerful Hurricane Irma, churned its way across the tiny island, killing a two-year-old child and leaving millions of dollars in damages.

When Irma’s core slammed into Barbuda, its maximum sustained winds were 185-mph, well above the 157-mph threshold of a Category 5 storm.

Browne estimates that it will take up to 300 million dollars to rebuild Barbuda, home to 1,800 people. All of the island’s inhabitants had to be evacuated to mainland Antigua after the hurricane.

At the time, Irma was one of three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have been in the Atlantic, according to reports.

“The whole idea is to deal with this Barbuda situation and to speak to the issue of climate change,” Browne said of his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly.

“I don’t think they care,” Browne said when asked if he believed the United States in particularly would be listening very carefully to what he has to say.

“But we have an obligation at the same time to advocate on what is clearly an existential threat, one of the most significant threats facing the planet. And no matter what they think, I know that America think that their interest is first, second, third until they get to last but we have a common humanity, we all occupy a planet called Earth and as far as we are concerned we are all inter-dependent on each other and perhaps sooner than later they will come to that reality,” Browne said.

During a special sitting of Parliament to discuss the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma on Barbuda, former Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Lester Bird said it’s time the “naysayers of climate change” wake up and face reality.

“Our governments must redouble their determination to confront the naysayers of climate change, however big and powerful they may be, even when we have a President of the United States, who should really be chastised for withdrawing the United States from [the Paris Climate Agreement],” Bird said.

Although the United States remains part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in June this year President Donald Trump ceased all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord.

That includes contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries to adapt to climate change and expand clean energy) and reporting on carbon data (though that is required in the US by domestic regulations anyway).

“Hurricane Irma nails the lie to all who claim that climate change and global warming are fantasies,” said Bird, who served as the second prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, from 1994 to 2004.

“The increased heat of the sea fed Irma’s size and intensity. The world has never witnessed a hurricane of the strength and size of Irma when it stormed through Barbuda leaving destruction and devastation in its path. Little Barbuda stood no chance against such a gigantic force,” Bird said.

“That is why I urge the government to continue to fight in the international community for mitigation against climate change and for the means to build up resilience in our island states; not just Barbuda but all of the island states that are low level.

“The prospect of climate change could even bring Tsunamis and undermine the existence of these islands as is demonstrated in Barbuda,” Bird added.

Meantime, Bird said Caribbean civilization is under threat because of climate change.

“Barbuda now lies prostrate, dispirited and depressed, a mangled wreck as the Prime Minister [Gaston Browne] has said. It is positive proof that the very existence of our civilization is now under deadly threat,” Bird said.

“This is the first time since the 18th century that there is no human person legally living on Barbuda. Over 300 years of human habitation has been abruptly interrupted. That must not be the fate of our island communities. Our heritage, our civilization, our identity depends on it.”

Hurricane Maria is the third in a string of devastating hurricanes to sweep through the region in recent weeks.

Some 42 deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Irma which has decimated many countries in the Caribbean including Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and the Dutch and French island of St. Maarten / St. Martin.

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Caribbean Picks Up the Pieces After Monster Stormhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:27:31 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152090 When Hurricane Irma ripped through the British Virgins Islands on Sept. 6, claiming seven lives, injuring an unknown number of people and destroying built infrastructure as well as significantly damaging the natural environment, the ferocity of the storm shocked many of the islands’ residents, including 72-year-old Egbert Smith, who has lived through plenty of severe […]

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Hurricane Irma left significant damage to public infrastructure, housing, tourism, commerce, and the natural environment in the British Virgin Islands. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Hurricane Irma left significant damage to public infrastructure, housing, tourism, commerce, and the natural environment in the British Virgin Islands. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

When Hurricane Irma ripped through the British Virgins Islands on Sept. 6, claiming seven lives, injuring an unknown number of people and destroying built infrastructure as well as significantly damaging the natural environment, the ferocity of the storm shocked many of the islands’ residents, including 72-year-old Egbert Smith, who has lived through plenty of severe storms.

“I seen a lot of hurricanes pass through here, but I never seen none like this. Never!” he told IPS from what was left of his home in Sophers Hole, a resort community toward the western end of Tortola, the largest and main island in the BVI.“If you read the climate change literature, as shocking as it is to experience this sort of disaster, there is nothing here that is a surprise." --Camillo Gonsalves, minister of sustainable development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Across from Smith’s beachfront patio, the storm deposited a large catamaran onto the roof of a one-storey building, shredding a large part of the pleasure craft.

On the other end of the bay, the Jost Van Dyke ferry terminal lay in ruins, its roof ripped off, and a large SUV pinned on top of raised a metal platform, the mangled vehicle having been deposited there by the storm surge.

“They say it was a category 5 but I think it was more than that. It might have been more than that,” Smith said of the monster storm, which lashed the island with 185 mph winds.

Before enduring Irma, Smith considered Hurricane Marilyn of 1995 to have been a terrible hurricane. But not anymore.

“This one was bad,” he tells IPS of the storm, which trashed his bedroom and its contents as his wife hid inside a closet and he just put his feet up on a chair and relaxed, having given up on trying to pick up items that were falling in his house during the passage of the hurricane.

On Sept. 14, a full week after the storm, the British Virgin Islands was still struggling to get basic systems back on track, with disaster managers forced to seek refuge in the recently constructed New Peebles Hospital after Irma destroyed their headquarters.

In addition to the dead and injured, the storm left widespread damage to the road infrastructure, housing stock, ports, telecommunications, electrical infrastructure and critical facilities.

Hurricane Irma had the most devastating impact on Sophers Hole, according to 72-year-old resident, Egbert Smith. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Governor of the British Overseas Territory, Augustus Jaspert, declared a state of emergency on Sept. 7 and on Sept. 11, he extended by three hours the curfew put in place three days earlier, ordering citizens to remain indoors between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to give disaster responders an opportunity to respond to the mammoth clean-up and recovery.

Disaster officials say a preliminary assessment indicated that 60 to 80 per cent of the buildings throughout the territory are damaged or destroyed, with a large percentage of the roofs severely compromised.

Approximately 351 persons are being accommodated in 10 temporary shelters and 106 persons were evacuated from Anegada, another of the islands, prior to impact.

One week after the storm, disaster managers were still considering options for housing the large number of displaced persons.

The municipal supply of water supply is not functional due to the lack of electricity and there was a limited stock of potable water available, with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay providing a limited supply to Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, two of the smaller islands in the territory.

Both of the desalination plants on Virgin Gorda, which has a population of 3,500, were destroyed.

The electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure across the islands has been severely damaged and electricity is only being provided through generators.

Caribbean Cellular Telephone Ltd., the leading wireless provider in the BVI is not functioning and Digicel has coverage only in Road Town, the main city, while Flow has sporadic coverage throughout the territory.

The road infrastructure has been severely damaged and heavy equipment operators have been deployed to all districts and have been working to clear roads to at least single lane traffic.

The hurricane cut a similar swathe of destruction across other islands in the northeastern Caribbean before slamming into Florida last weekend, leaving more than six million people without power and many thousands in shelters. Overall, the storm claimed at least 14 lives in the so-called Sunshine State, six in the coastal U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia, and 38 across the Caribbean, though some estimates are even higher.

It also came on the heels of yet another devastating hurricane – Harvey – which sideswiped Barbados and caused catastrophic flooding in the U.S. Gulf state of Texas, where 82 people died and more than 30,000 were displaced.

Camillo Gonsalves, minister of sustainable development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was among the officials from the Caribbean Community — a regional bloc of nations of which the BVI is an associate member — who visited the BVI in the aftermath of Irma.

Gonsalves visited to assess the situation in the territory and to ascertain what help Kingstown could provide, as well as to inquire into the welfare of Vincentian nationals, who make up 10 per cent of the population of the BVI.

The minister, who, as a diplomat, had helped was among the team of negotiators who ensured the interest of small island development states was captured in the 2015 Paris climate accord, said that those who have been paying close enough attention should not be surprised by the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.

“If you read the climate change literature, as shocking as it is to experience this sort of disaster, there is nothing here that is a surprise,” he told IPS, adding that forecasters have long warned that with there would be more frequent and intense tropical cyclones as a result of climate change.

“You can’t point to any one storm and say this storm here was created by climate change but any casual reading of the scientific literature tells you this is going to happen in this area and it is going to affect livelihoods, it is going to affect infrastructure, it is going to affect just the way these countries exist and it is going to happen more and more in the future,” Gonsalves said.

The Caribbean and other countries in the region, including the United States, are losing lives and suffering tens of billions of dollars in damages from severe hurricanes such as Irma and other weather events – at a time when Washington seems to want to reopen the debate about the role of human activity in the well-documented warming of planet and what must be done to prevent it from getting even worse.

But Gonsalves is convinced that there is no debate about the causes of climate change and what must be done to mitigate against and adapt to it.

“We didn’t create this problem,” he said, adding that Caribbean nations, as small islands, have to assist one another and to band together in solidarity even as they are among the worst affected by climate change, notwithstanding their negligible contribution to it.

“Those who created this problem have a special responsibility to satisfy their debt to humanity and to assist countries like this not only recover from storms but adapt to the already changing circumstances and climate,” Gonsalves told IPS.

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Dominica’s Geothermal Dream About to Become Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/dominicas-geothermal-dream-become-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dominicas-geothermal-dream-become-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/dominicas-geothermal-dream-become-reality/#respond Wed, 06 Sep 2017 22:35:39 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151959 The tiny Caribbean island of Dominica has moved one step closer to its dream of constructing a geothermal plant, a project that is expected to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Dominica government is contributing 40.5 million dollars towards the project and has been seeking to raise the additional funds from various sources. […]

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Dominica says it plans to establish a small geothermal plant despite a few “hiccups’’ with investors. Credit: Charles Jong

Dominica says it plans to establish a small geothermal plant despite a few “hiccups’’ with investors. Credit: Charles Jong

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Sep 6 2017 (IPS)

The tiny Caribbean island of Dominica has moved one step closer to its dream of constructing a geothermal plant, a project that is expected to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The Dominica government is contributing 40.5 million dollars towards the project and has been seeking to raise the additional funds from various sources.The road towards geothermal has been a long and arduous, not only for Dominica but also its Caribbean neighbours.

“In addition to government’s contribution we have secured all the funds required to construct the plant from our development partners,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said, noting that the funding will include EC$30 million from Britain, EC$5.4 million from New Zealand and also EC$5.4 million from SIDS DOCK.

SIDS DOCK is an initiative among member countries of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to provide the Small Island Developing States with a collective institutional mechanism to assist them transform their national energy sectors into a catalyst for sustainable economic development and help generate financial resources to address adaptation to climate change.

It is called SIDS DOCK because it is designed as a “DOCKing station,” to connect the energy sector in SIDS with the global market for finance, sustainable energy technologies and with the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) carbon markets, and able to trade the avoided carbon emissions in those markets. Estimates place the potential value of the US and EU markets between 100 to 400 billion dollars annually.

Skerrit noted that the environmental and social impact assessment for the geothermal project is ongoing in the Roseau valley.

“Every effort will be made to ensure that adverse impacts on the communities and the environment will be mitigated,” he said, adding that land owners in the area can also expect to be compensated for use of their property and support will be provided to residents who occupy lands to ensure that they are not left worst off.

The designs for the plant are progressing and should be completed by the third quarter of 2017.

“Once the plant has been commissioned, the DGDC will sell power to DOMLEC (Dominica Electricity Company) to be distributed throughout the country.

“So far, I have been advised, that based on the regulations of the Independent Regulatory Commission (IRC) DOMLEC must pass on the lower tariff to the consumer. That is to say DOMLEC is not allowed to add to the cost at which the power will be sold. This will ensure that the lower cost of electricity from geothermal will pass through to the consumers of our country,” Skerrit said, adding that negotiations are ongoing with DOMLEC to finalize the terms of the power purchase agreement.

Dominica has also applied for grant funding from the United Arab Emirates Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund and is expecting between EC$8.1 million and EC$13.5 million to fund a battery storage system to be used on the national electricity grid.

Skerrit said funding for this project will also be obtained from the World Bank in the form of a loan of EC$16.2 million at a highly concessionary rate of 0.75 per cent with a 10-year grace period and 44-year repayment plan.

“We have invested millions thus far,” Skerrit said, adding he is confident citizens “all look forward to the significant reduction in the cost of energy that will follow”.

He said the development of the plant “will be a positive impact on businesses and this should also stimulate investments by others establishing new businesses”.

The road towards geothermal has been a long and arduous, not only for Dominica but also Caribbean neighbours St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Last December, Energy Minister Ian Douglas said Dominica was moving closer to harnessing geothermal energy.

He said the Dominica Geothermal Company had been registered, and planning of the power plant is progressing.

“We are moving ever closer to the vision of realizing power from our geothermal resources. The Dominica Geothermal Company has been duly registered, and plans for the construction of the power plant are progressing satisfactorily,” he stated.

This follows a decision made by the government to run the geothermal project as a company solely owned by the government and people of Dominica.

Earlier this year, the St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission said financing and government policy had been identified as the major challenges to the development of geothermal energy in the Eastern Caribbean.

A survey, conducted by the Energy Unit of the OECS Commission, gathered the views of 86 people involved in geothermal energy, half of whom were based in the OECS region.

The respondents of the survey were geothermal stakeholders working with or with an interest in geothermal energy in the nine-member sub-region.

According to the OECS Commission, most of the respondents (82 percent) were employees of government or utility companies pursuing geothermal energy initiatives.

With respect to non-OECS respondents, almost 50 percent were private sector geothermal experts with past experience working on geothermal projects.

“There was clear consensus amongst all survey participants that finance and government policy are the main challenges to geothermal energy development in the region. These were followed closely by competition from other energy sources, and technological issues,’ the Commission said.

It said the majority of survey participants would like to see the establishment of a regional mechanism to support geothermal development in the region.

“The geothermal stakeholders are convinced that such a mechanism would be beneficial to the industry, especially as it relates to policy, legislation, and regulations.”

The Commission noted that all countries of the Eastern Caribbean are almost totally dependent on imported fossil fuels, despite their significant potential for renewable energy such as solar, hydro, wind, and geothermal.

In recent years geothermal energy has emerged as a priority for the OECS region. Currently, seven of the ten OECS member states are working towards the development of their geothermal resources. The scientific evidence shows a strong potential for development as countries continue to assess and quantify their geothermal potential.

The Bouillante geothermal plant on the French island of Guadeloupe is the only geothermal power plant currently operating in the Caribbean. It’s been operating since 1986 and currently provides about six percent of the electricity in Guadeloupe.

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“New Normal” for the U.S., All Too Familiar for the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 11:33:24 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151854 The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it hopes that the devastating loss and damage that Hurricane Harvey has wrought in Texas might inspire the government of President Donald Trump to rethink its position on climate change. Hurricane Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2005 and the costliest in […]

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Pearland, Texas after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Credit: Brant Kelly/cc by 2.0

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it hopes that the devastating loss and damage that Hurricane Harvey has wrought in Texas might inspire the government of President Donald Trump to rethink its position on climate change.

Hurricane Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2005 and the costliest in U.S. history in terms of damage, made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25 and left much of Houston and other parts of the state under feet of floodwater."We must be touched with the feeling of their distress and their loss and their grief and their anguish, because we are subject to the same." --Minister of Foreign Affairs Louis Straker

Harvey made its way to the United States about a week after it passed near St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries in the Caribbean.

Residents of this eastern Caribbean nation breathed a sign of relief after the only lasting sign of the passage of the storm was some flooding in Bequia, the largest and northern-most of the Grenadine islands.

Harvey made landfall in Texas for a second time in less than a week on Tuesday and the damage it left in the “Lone Star State” was a reminder to Vincentians of the power of tropical cyclones and the damage that they have caused over the last decade in this multi-island nation.

“I wonder what we would be doing if we had that sort of persistent rain. I trust that what is happening in Houston will open the eyes of a lot of people worldwide with regards to climate change,” Minister of Transportation and Works, Sen. Julian Francis told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday.

Francis was updating the media on a road repair programme and the annual road-cleaning that came ahead of September, which is traditionally the heart of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The minister noted that the programme, which normally runs for 10 days, was reduced to eight because of the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey.

But the two days of work that the temporary workers employed under the programme lost as a result of the storm was nothing compared to the damage and loss left by less powerful weather systems over the past few years.

AMO and Special Operations agents conduct rescue with CBP UH-1N helicopter as part of Hurricane Harvey response. Credit: Public domain

The senator, who also has ministerial responsibilities for local government, expressed sympathy for the victims of Harvey but also criticized President Trump, who shortly after taking office pulled the United States out of the global Paris Accord to reduce the greenhouse emissions driving climate change and severe weather, has attempted to cut government funding for the agencies that monitor climate, and has long downplayed the problem while promoting the fossil fuel industry over renewables.

“It is pouring down on the fourth largest city in the United States of America but we know what the position of the sitting president and his administration is with regards to climate change.

“So I trust this comes as an eye-opener to the administrators and policymakers in the United States of America. I do feel sad and sympathise with the people of Texas… I have been following it closely and I say I wonder what would happen to us if we had that sort of downpour,” Francis said.

Speaking at a separate event later on Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among the top 10 countries in the world most vulnerable to extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

“We don’t have to have high winds. Because we are mountainous, we have a lot of landslides, the rivers overflow their banks, a lot of disasters are caused in this country by heavy rainfall, without the wind.”

Gonsalves said that the nation’s seacoast is being eroded by wave action resulting from the frequent and more intense storms associated climate change.

“The entire eastern coast is being eroded and also on the western side of the island,” he said.

He noted that between 2014 and 2016, his government has had to rebuild five major bridges in a five-mile area in eastern St. Vincent.

The bridges were built to replace older ones damaged or destroyed by extreme weather events, which also necessitated redesign to accommodate larger water flows during storms ranging from tropical depressions to hurricane.

At a total cost of 7.4 million dollars, the bridges represent a significant budgetary expense in a multi-island nation whose capital expenditure allocation in 2016 was 74 million dollars.

“I say these things so that we can keep this matter in focus,” said Gonsalves, whose government in May introduced a one per cent levy to help fund the cost of disaster response and mitigation.

In 2016, flooding as a result of tropical waves left damage to public infrastructure totalling EC$37 million, almost 10 per cent of the 342-million-dollar national budget.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s meeting of the national assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs Louis Straker expressed solidarity with the people of the United States, and used the experience of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to remind nationals of what Texans might be experiencing.

“We are not immune to natural disasters and we have had our own flooding here, the major one being 2013 Christmas Eve, in which 13 lives were lost,” Straker said.

“Some people say that this is because of global warming, climate change, something that is denied and rejected by the president of the United States,” he told parliament.

“But what we have seen in Texas what is referred to in language as ‘of epic proportion’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘one in a 100 years’, the president said one in 500 years, and it is catastrophic. We must be touched with the feeling of their distress and their loss and their grief and their anguish, because we are subject to the same,” Straker said.

The foreign minister, whose oldest son lives in Texas, told lawmakers that all residents of the state have been affected in one way or the other.

“And we have to commiserate and sympathise and show solidarity with the Vincentians in the diaspora and with the hundreds of thousands of other people in Houston who have been affected by this storm, Harvey,” he said, noting that the storm passed St. Vincent and the Grenadines without much devastation.

Speaking about the impact on the lives of the people of Texas, he added, “Could you imagine that people work all their lives to build a home — that is very previous to a lot of people — and you furnish your home and you live comfortably with your family and within the space of a day or two, you could lose everything and you are left homeless? That’s a chilling prospect that all of us should contemplate,” Straker said.

Regionally, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a block of 15 Caribbean nations, also extended its sympathies to the government and people of the United States and especially the State of Texas on the loss of lives and extensive damage to property and infrastructure following the passage of Hurricane Harvey.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in a message to U.S. President Donald Trump, said CARICOM is confident that the people of Texas and the wider United States have the resilience to recover from the disaster.

LaRocque assured Trump that CARICOM stands with the Unites States at this time of disaster.

“The widespread destruction wrought by this hurricane has brought suffering to many and will necessitate a significant and lengthy rebuilding process,” LaRocque said. “The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe.”

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Young Artists Get Passionate About Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/young-artists-get-passionate-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=young-artists-get-passionate-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/young-artists-get-passionate-renewable-energy/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 11:33:49 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151843 Conversations about renewable and sustainable energy don’t typically include artistic ideas on the subject. However, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has chosen to engage the region’s youth in the conversation by inviting them to create artistic works on sustainable energy for a regional competition. Seven of the nine winners in the 2016 competition were from Trinidad […]

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Second- and third-place winners, respectively, in the Caricom Energy Month Photography and Art competition, Candice Sobers and Seon Thompson, holding the works that won them the prizes. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 30 2017 (IPS)

Conversations about renewable and sustainable energy don’t typically include artistic ideas on the subject. However, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has chosen to engage the region’s youth in the conversation by inviting them to create artistic works on sustainable energy for a regional competition.

Seven of the nine winners in the 2016 competition were from Trinidad and Tobago and in June they were honoured at a ceremony held by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries.Sobers said her focus in painting “Mother Energy” was to encourage “sustaining the environment with the right motive, with a motive of loving it, cherishing it and benefiting from it."

Some of those winners told IPS that the competition had indeed kindled their desire to be a part of the sustainable/renewable energy discussion now taking place in the region.

Candice Sobers, who won second place in the professional art category, describes entering art competitions “as a hobby” because “exposure in the arts is difficult to come by in Trinidad”. Nevertheless, the research she did for the competition has had an impact on how she uses energy. She now turns off any lights and appliances in her home that are not in use, and she has invested in energy-saving light bulbs.

Sobers’ entry to the Caricom Energy Month art and photography competition depicted a tree painted in the shape of woman who is seen pregnant with the sun. The mother tree’s mode of transportation is a bicycle and the environment she inhabits comprises various forms of renewable energy.

The painting, entitled “Mother Energy”, is rendered in acrylics, coloured pencil, and oil pastels. Sobers describes her work, in part, as follows: “The bicycle is a means of exercise without burning fossil fuels, encouraging the reduction of the carbon footprint. The energy saving bulb hangs on her neck as an accessory while she rides by the hydro-electric plant and wind mill landscape.”

Sobers said her focus in painting “Mother Energy” was to encourage “sustaining the environment with the right motive, with a motive of loving it, cherishing it and benefiting from it. If the motive is only for money mankind will find themselves abusing it in some form.”

Winners in the Caricom Energy Month art competition Fidelis Iwueke (from left), Candice Sobers, and Seon Thompson. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

Third-placed winner in the professional art category, Seon Thompson, likewise chose to use a woman as part of his iconography. Like Sobers, Thompson holds a BA in Visual Arts from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. He told IPS, “I tried to give a double meaning to some of the elements.”

He explained that the hair of the woman, in a traditional corn row hairstyle, was also used to depict rows of plants while the palm trees seen in the landscape behind her also carried the implication of wind turbines. As one gazes at the painting, one’s eyes are led by the graceful lines of the woman’s arm and the undulating lines of cool blue and green depicting her hair to the warm, vividly coloured sun and mountains she carries in a basket on her head, with their obvious allusion to solar energy.

In explaining his work, Thompson said. “I really wanted to connect sustainable energy with the elements of the Caribbean we all could relate to—sun, foliage, fauna, people, houses and hills.” The houses in his painting are shown with solar panels on their roofs.

“In the Caribbean, we have two seasons, rainy and dry, so we really should be using solar energy, hydro energy, and so on….We are a prime example of nations that have all the elements aligned to practise sustaintable energy. We just need to invest in it more and see the value of utilising these mediums that exist and are readily available.”

Thompson said in creating his painting, “I really wanted to create an experience, not just have people say ‘that’s nice’. You must have an experience and really leave with something on your mind.”

He said he has started a project at the school where he teaches art to promote the idea of sustainability. The project encourages Form 5 students to find objects that are discarded and repurpose them in ways that are beneficial and profitable.

For 19-year-old Fidelis Iwueke, the first prize winner in the Caricom Energy Month video competition, his studies at A’Level in Environmental Science provided the foundation for his creation.

He provided IPS with a textbook definition of sustainability. “Sustainability is to ensure that the needs of today are provided for without compromising the future.”

Iwueke has just finished secondary school and his success in the video competition has awakened an interest in documentary production as a prospective career. “I am a former documentary junkie. I love documentaries,” he said. He is also a poet and spoken word artist, which made the video competition the most suitable category for him, he said.

Using public domain footage and videos that he gained permission to use, Iwueke was able to create his award-winning video. He began by creating an audio track of his voice discussing the topic of sustainable energy, to which he added music. He then overlaid this on the video he had obtained, following which he edited the video using the WeVideo app on his phone. The result was a seamless production that belies the fact that this was his first foray into video production.

The video opens with delightful clips showing the sea and other scenes from nature in the Caribbean, then segues to West Indians in the midst of carnival, as his voiceover ties the clips together by referring to the Caribbean’s sea and sun and then to Caribbean people as “a people full of energy…and we rely on energy for growth, survival and sustainable development. For sustainable development, we need sustainable energy.”

The video then goes on to discuss why sustainable energy is important and the different forms that are available to Caribbean people and encourages their use, while holding viewers’ attention with arresting footage.

Reflecting on the competition theme, Iwueke said, “The sun is always there. We have nice oceans for tidal energy. We just need a basic attitude change; changes in our consumption patterns could go a long way.”

Despite learning environmental science at school, preparing for the competition was a learning experience for him. “I liked and followed the Caricom Energy page to keep in the know. I learned how far the Caribbean has come and how much more we need to do,” he said.

The competition thus provided an avenue for these young Caribbean artists to further their practice, while making them more invested in sustainable energy as a lifestyle. “Now that I am more aware of renewable energy, I will become more of an advocate in any way possible. And when the finances are there I will make better choices,” said Iwueke.

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