OPINION: Forging a climate resilient development pathway in the Caribbean
Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, and a senior strategic advisor to CDKN, outlines the tremendous opportunities for climate compatible development in the region.
The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean have made significant strides in responding to a changing and variable climate. However, the dissonance between climate change time horizons and immediate development needs and priorities as articulated by public policy-makers pose a primary challenge to the region’s efforts to achieve low emissions, build resilience and promote development simultaneously. Specifically, climate change projections are often expressed in timeframes ( 25 years, 50 years, 100 years) that have little or no relation to the routine development planning timeframes (5 years, 10 years, 30 years) used by the public policy-makers and the expectations of the general public.
This challenge exists alongside the peculiarities associated with multi-country policy-making, hazards of our small size, geography, and limited resources that often impedes ambitious and decisive action. Given this mix of challenges, it’s crucial that the region frames climate change responses such that they’re viewed as urgent and integral for development imperatives such as poverty reduction, debt-servicing, and growth.
The efficacy of this approach is typified by Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ strong commitment to make climate change a priority during his chairmanship of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) immediately after the unprecedented weather event that ravaged the Eastern Caribbean in December 2013. In declaring climate change as a key focus of his six month chairmanship of the regional block, Dr Gonsalves noted “we are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” which underscores the importance of showing the link between existing weather events and climate projections across time-horizons. Dr Gonsalves’s realisation of this link will allow him to bring a sense of urgency to the XXV Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of Government where climate change will feature prominently in the discussions.
In our quest to forge a climate resilient development pathway, the Caribbean has been tackling the primary challenge of aligning the comparatively distant time horizons of climate projections with more immediate development objectives and political considerations in a multi-country policy-making context. The Heads of Government of CARICOM endorsed the Liliendaal Declaration on Climate Change and Development in 2009, which defines the positions of Member States, and approved “A Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change”. The Regional Framework and its associated Implementation Plan (approved in March 2012), both of which were prepared by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre with support from CDKN, specifies actions and timeframes that complements some of the political time horizons and specific development objectives.
The development of the Caribbean Climate Risk Management Framework and its associated Caribbean Climate Online Risk Assessment TooL (CCORAL) is a direct response to one of the actions defined in the Regional Framework. Climate risk management tools like CCORAL with cross-sectorial applicability are crucial elements of the region’s emerging strong early action framework for building climate resilience and advancing our development objectives.
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Image: Haiti, courtesy DFID.