Caribbean needs to be heard on climate change

by Prospery Raymond, Christian Aid country manager for Haiti and the Dominican Republic

In recent years Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have felt the full force of climate change from hurricanes, tropical storms and other weather-related events as a result of global warming of 1°C above pre-industrial levels.

This has had adverse effects on particularly vulnerable countries and communities.

Flooded street in Haiti

CARICOM countries and other small island and low-lying coastal developing states have long been calling for limiting the increase in average global temperatures to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Countries have also noted with grave concern the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C. The report noted that climate-related risks for natural and human systems including health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are significantly higher at an increased global warming of 1.5°C than at the present warming levels of 1°C.

Particularly worrisome for small island developing states (SIDS) is the finding that 70 to 90 per cent of tropical coral reefs will be lost at a 1.5°C temperature increase and 99 percent of tropical coral reefs will be lost at a 2°C temperature increase.

Dr Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General at the CARICOM Secretariat, explained how the organisation has been working closely with the Alliance of Small Island States grouping.

'The CARICOM SIDS grouping is considered a very important link and we are really leaders in the SIDS movement,' he said.

He added that at last year’s 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that the region had been able to ensure, to some extent, that the procedures for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement were clearly outlined.

Christian Aid's partners in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - including Service Jésuite aux Migrants (SJM), Centro Montalvo and Le Service Chrétien d’Haïti (SCH) - are working together to help address climate change challenges in the region, meeting together together and preparing joint actions.

Haiti is particularly susceptible to land degradation and its impacts, which we are dealing with now. We hope Haiti can adjust to understanding the need for reforestation as a resilience measure.

All individual member states of CARICOM must work with the various ministries and the regional institutions to mobilise the resources - that is the big challenge. There’s a willingness to do it, the challenge is having the resources.

There are some excellent institutions like CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) which really is on the ball, but they need resources sometimes to respond to some of the challenges.

Our partners are working with some international organisations and some other international development partners to see how we can pull that together. But it’s a work in progress.

A man sits outside his home in Haiti, which has been destroyed by Hurricane Matthew