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The Caribbean is at high risk

DANGER: A young girl stands in the remains of her home after a devastating hurricane

THE ENTIRE Caribbean way of life is under threat if the region does not get to grips with climate change, according to a leading expert on the issue.

With the region now entering hurricane season, experts say that the challenges facing the region are now even higher.

However observers say that access to available funds to help Caribbean leaders to tackle the problem is too often mired in bureaucratic red tape.

In an interview with The Voice, Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) which coordinates the region’s response to climate change, said that countries in the area can now face as much rainfall in the space of a few days as they may have had over a few months in previous years. Often, drainage systems are unable to cope with the downpour.

Other Caribbean nations also face water shortages exacerbated by longer droughts linked to climate change.

Farming and fishing communities in coastal areas and the region’s tourism industry – estimated to bring in billions of dollars every year – often bear the brunt of damage and loss of income.

PREDICTIONS

Several predictions show that extreme weather patterns facing the region will be exacerbated in the near future and could have a devastating affect on the Caribbean’s economy.

Trotz said:

“For small island nations, everything comes to a stop. As a region, we are very exposed to climate risk. We have some serious concerns about the viability of Caribbean life as we know it.”

He continued:

“A lot of the damage now comes from extreme precipitation. So that translates into floods, landslides, loss of life, and loss of livelihoods.”

Harsen Nyambe, head of climate change at the Commonwealth Secretariat, agreed. He told The Voice:

“The welfare of the people in the Caribbean and their economic development is threatened by climate change. This is because the livelihood of many in the region depends heavily on tourism and fishing, which is being increasingly disrupted.


DESPAIR: Children hold hands in the aftermath of a Haitian hurricane

“The small islands are proving to be very sensitive to the effects of climate change, such as cyclones and other natural disasters, which are very difficult to recover from.

“Consequently, the gross domestic product has plummeted in countries like Haiti and Dominica, making it difficult to service loans and causing countries to remain in debt.”

He added:

“The peoples of the Caribbean have every reason to be concerned, especially when they notice the infrastructure of the countries they live is neglected.”

Among the solutions put forward to help make coastal areas more resilient to storm surges and rising sea levels, linked to global warming, is to protect coral and mangrove ecosystems. Reefs act like breakwaters, reducing wave strength, while salt-tolerant mangroves can buffer against hurricane winds and storm surges and cut wave height.

Despite funds from resources such as the United Nations Green Climate Fund, set up in 2010 to help poor countries tackle climate change, red tape means that many small island nations are unable to access funding.

“The bottom line is that we don’t have the resources,” Trotz said.

“It’s not that we don’t have any idea about how we need to build resilience.”

He added that it can take from nine months to up to eight years to get funds from donors.

Nyambe said that governments in the Caribbean face challenges on a number of fronts.

“Many must prioritise issues like controlling HIV and malaria with limited financial and human resources.”

He added:

“Unfortunately, many of the developed countries who are historically responsible for much of the damage to the environment, are not willing to provide the needed finance to alleviate the problem.”

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