Climate change as a generator of employment in key economic sectors of the Caribbean

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – As the international community continues to give significant attention to the global phenomenon, Climate Change, Mr. Garfield Barnwell, Director of Sustainable Development at the CARICOM Secretariat posited some insights into how the Caribbean Region could transform this threat into employment opportunities when he made his presentation to the Second CARICOM Climate Change Conference in Castries, St. Lucia on March 23-24 2009.

In his presentation titled “Climate Change as a Generator of Employment in Key Economic Sectors of the Caribbean,” the Director of Sustainable Development outlined several key opportunities associated with the repositioning of the Region’s sustainable development policies and programmes in such a manner as to provide employment opportunities.

He noted that job creation especially in relation to the youth was one of the major economic challenges facing the Caribbean. Acknowledging that there was a dearth of information on employment trends in the Region, Mr Barnwell stated that what was available had pointed to output growth as a key factor in generating employment in the Region. In this context, he said, economic growth could be attributed to investment in the export of goods and services sectors and government expenditures.

Mr. Barnwell was quick to explain that many official reports in the Caribbean had concurred that when global output expanded, global trade increased much faster than global output and vice versa when there was a downturn, underscoring the vulnerability of the economies in the Caribbean.

He explained further that the potential impacts of Climate Change on employment and livelihood in the Caribbean depended on the policies in place to address Climate Change and the readiness of the systems established to respond to the challenges. He cited several key elements necessary to ensuring the readiness of the economic systems in the region. These include, attention given to strengthening the skill and knowledge base in the Region’s human resources; the ability to absorb environmentally friendly technologies; appropriate trade policies and adequate approaches to disaster risk management.

Referring to preliminary assessments done on the impact of climate change on employment creation, Mr. Barnwell stated that indications were on the basis of the most popular scenario for predicting an increase in temperatures of 2°C in the post 2012 period that the sectors most likely to be affected in the Caribbean are:

– The primary goods sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, due to a decrease in production yields

– The energy and water resource sectors that are sensitive to climate change;

– The tourism sector;

– Insurance and financial sectors, due to the likelihood of increased losses in relation to damage claims;

– Health problems due to an increase in extreme events;

– High infrastructure rehabilitation costs due to increase in sea levels.

Notwithstanding these challenges, Mr Barnwell was convinced that addressing Climate Change also provided a useful platform to promote alternative development initiatives particularly in the use of renewable energy, and encouraged the following:

– The use of environmentally sound technologies which could facilitate the proliferation of trade in environmental goods and services;

– A sound basis for the adoption of emissions trading schemes in the Caribbean;

– The positioning of the Caribbean to be a Carbon Neutral zone which could facilitate potential advantages of small size;

– Shifts to low-volume, high-value tourism, including the development of non-traditional branches of tourism;

– Shifts to indigenous production methods and higher local value-added production;

– The transformation of the transport sector to the development and dissemination of clean technologies that could give a significant technology lead.

All these areas of activity represent a huge potential for job creation in the Caribbean, he declared.

In concluding, Mr. Barnwell reiterated that Climate change is a matter of the “life or death” of the Caribbean and efforts must be made to ensure that the requisite policy is relevant to the Region’s development needs.

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