Caribbean must press ahead with adaptation to climate change

Despite US announcement of withdrawal from Paris Accord

MIAMI – A grouping of representatives of the Caribbean American and US private sector, non-government organizations and regional governments has urged that the Caribbean region, while disappointed with America’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, use this development to generate greater enthusiasm among Caribbean populations to move ahead with enhanced measures for adaptation to climate change.

The meeting identified among the possible enhanced measures greater collaboration among stakeholders to include the business sector, intensified public education programs on environmental issues, the establishment of a US/Caribbean Sea Council and strategic use of social media as a means of fundraising so as to be able to execute relevant programs.

The roundtable was put on by Americas Relief Team (ART), Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GCAA) and hosted by Serfaty Law P.A. to commemorate United Nations World Oceans Day which is celebrated each year on June 8.

The discussions focused on preservation of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean which spans much of the geographic space of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), including Guyana and Surinam in South America and Belize in Central America.

In welcoming participants host Charles Serfaty said that the roundtable “is being held at a critical juncture” and pointed out that world ocean assets are valued at some $24 trillion (US) with an extra US 2.5 trillion annually from the goods and services derived from the oceans.

He pointed out that while the value of the assets and goods and services from the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean might not have been assessed, “we are well aware of their critical importance to the economic well being of the nations and people of the Caribbean.”

Chairman of the event, Wesley Kirton in his remarks pointed to the possible adverse effects climate change through sea level rise would have on CARICOM member states and the wider Caribbean noting that these would impact women and children the most.

“Today’s event is intended to remind everyone of the importance of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to everyday life in the Caribbean and to generate ideas and recommendations for the sustainable management of these bodies of water as well as the need for measures that would help us best adapt to climate change,” Kirton said.

President of he Washington-DC based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) Dr. Claire Nelson pointed to the importance of the “blue economy” to the Caribbean region and the need for heightened recognition of the benefits this economy brings to life in the region.

Against this backdrop Dr. Nelson recommended that efforts be made to put in place a US/Caribbean Sea Council that would include all stakeholders. She also pointed to the need for the Caribbean private sector in the region to play a more active role in developing the blue economy.

Dr. Teo Babun, president and chief executive officer of Americas Relief Team (ART) referenced changing weather patterns caused by climate change which is resulting in extreme conditions including flooding, long dry spells and hurricanes in the Caribbean and Central America.

He said these conditions are negatively impacting the lives of millions of people but resources have dwindled due to budget cuts, as well as the allocation of resources to Africa where much larger numbers have been affected.

Dr. Babun stressed the need for new approaches to resource mobilization and endorsed the suggestion of Ms. Demzy Gueits of Serfaty Law that greater use be made of social media to raise funding for programs and projects in support of climate change adaptation.

Ms.  Gueits pointed out that through social media millions of individuals, businesses and organizations can be reached to solicit support for these efforts. She noted that the younger generation has concerns about the environment and would be willing to contribute to such efforts.

Robert Hans, managing partner of IOS Partners told the meeting that US President Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal announcement from the Paris Accord should not daunt the spirits of activists and stakeholders but should be used as a call to action to intensify efforts to prepare to effectively address the consequences of climate change.

Hans identified the need for closer collaboration and coordination among stakeholders as they seek to identify strategies and implement projects designed to cushion the worse effects of climate change.

Hans said the private sector in both the US and the Caribbean should play a bigger role by supporting research to enhance the blue economy as well as public education programs on preservation of the environment that would appeal to various sections of the population, including children.

Caribbean must press ahead with adaptation to climate change

Speakers and other participants at the roundtable to commemorate United Nations World Oceans Day.

The chairman of Guyana’s Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Larry London told participants that his country has been working to limit greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft serving the Guyana market. He said that new laws and regulations will form part of an aviation master plan which will be developed over the next year.

London said that Guyana’s President David Granger has committed to developing a green economy notwithstanding ExxonMobil’s oil and gas discoveries. He also pointed to Guyana’s commitment to working with the regional and wider international communities through its Low Carbon Development Strategy and its Iwokrama Rainforest Project.

Recommendations emanating from Thursday’s meeting are expected to form part of the discussions later this month in Washington, DC during Legislative Week which is part of the Caribbean Heritage Month observance.

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