By Desmond Brown
MADRID, Spain, Friday December 20, 2019 (IPS) – Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe has compared the climate emergency to a violent act and appealed to the international community for help to fight climate change.
“Climate change is a very big terror in Haiti. It’s very hard for us to deal with climate change,” Jouthe told IPS on the margins of the United Nations climate summit, the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25), in Madrid, Spain.
“Haiti is not responsible for what’s going on with climate change but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community.”
Jouthe said Haiti remains committed to strengthening its resilience to climate shocks and to contributing to the global effort to mitigate the phenomenon.
Haiti is pursuing a four-fold objective in relation to climate change: promoting, at the level of all sectors and other ministries, a climate-smart national development; creating a coherent response framework for country directions and actions to address the impacts of climate change; promoting education on the environment and climate change as a real strategic lever to promote the emergence of environmental and climatic citizenship; and putting in place a reliable measurement, reporting and verification system that can feed into the iterative planning processes of national climate change initiatives.
But Jouthe said the country simply cannot achieve these targets without financial help.
“In Haiti all the indicators are red. We have many projects but as you may know [The Caribbean Community] CARICOM doesn’t have enough funding to build projects,” he said.
Patrice Cineus, a young Haitian living in Quebec, said access to funding has been a perennial problem for Haiti.
But he believes Haiti is partly to blame for the seeming lack of inability to quickly receive financial help.
“Haiti, my country needs to build evidence-based policies, and this will make it easier to attract help from the international community,” Cineus told IPS.
“If we don’t have strong policies, it’s not possible. We need research within the country. We need innovative programmes within the country and then we can look for financial support and technical support.
“We cannot have access to funding because the projects we are submitting are not well done. We don’t use scientific data to build them. They are not done professionally,” he added.
Cineus’ theory appears to be substantiated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which helps CARICOM member states address the issue of adaptation and climate change.
The centre’s Executive Director Dr Kenrick Leslie said since 2016, under an Italian programme, it is required to develop projects that would help countries adapt to different areas of climate change.
“One of the areas that we have been considering, and we spoke with Haiti, is to build resilience in terms of schools and shelters that can be used in the case of a disaster.
“Funds have been approved but, unfortunately, unlike the other member states where we have already implemented at least one, and some cases two, projects, we have not been able to get the projects in Haiti off the ground,” Leslie told IPS.
“Each time they have identified an area, when we go there the site is not a suitable site and then we have to start the process again.”
While Haiti waits for funding, Dr Kénel Délusca, current head of mission of a technical assistance project, AP3C, of the Ministry of Environment and Environment and the European Union, said the country remains one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.
Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms, and Island nations like Haiti are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.
“The marine environment is extremely important to the Haitian people. There are more than 8 million people living in coastal communities in Haiti,” Délusca told IPS.
“There are more or less 50,000 families whose activities are based on these specific ecosystems. In other words, this is a very important ecosystem for Haiti and different levels – at the economic level, at the cultural level, at the social level.”
Haiti is divided into 10 departments, and Délusca said nine of them are coastal. Additionally, he said the big cities of Haiti are all located within the coastal zone.
“These ecosystems are very strategic to the development of Haiti. The Haitians have a lot of activities that are based on the marine resources. We also develop some cultural and social activities that are based on these environments,” Délusca said.
For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life as a result of climate change is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.
Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by five per cent by 2030.