Caribbean launches CCORAL, a new climate change initiative

Peter Richards

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Friday July 12, 2013 – The Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation Tool (CCORAL) was launched here Friday twith regional countries hoping it will become another initiative that will result in meaningful progress in the battle to combat climate change.

The new initiative will promote climate smart development by helping to embed a risk management ethic in decision-making processes and is a seminal on-line support tool in keeping with the thrust to promote a culture of risk management across the region.

The CCORAL has been developed by the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN).

St. Lucia’s Public Service Sustainable Development, Energy Science and Technology Minister Dr. James Fletcher, said that the launch was taking place as the region deals with the 2013 tropical Atlantic hurricane season which, according to scientific predictions, will see above-normal hurricane activity.

“Indeed, we are convened here a mere three days after the passage of Tropical Storm Chantal which, thankfully, caused relatively little damage and no loss of life,” he told the delegates from various donor agencies, as well as regional and international organisations, adding that hurricanes pose a regular and real threat to the region.

“History has taught that visitation by a single hurricane can obliterate years of economic growth, literally overnight, while leaving lasting marks, not only on the physical landscape, but also on the national psyche,” he added.

Fletcher said that recent studies have shown that for the last several decades, a significant increase in average hurricane wind speeds are expected to peak by around 2025 accompanied by increases in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, from the present average of 1.4 per annum, to a new annual average of three to four.

He said a study conducted by the University of the West Indies (UWI) projects an increase in rainfall during tropical storms and hurricanes.

“This means that regardless whether we witness an actual increase in the overall number of hurricanes per year, we can expect, due to climate change, an increase in the severity of hurricanes and, therefore, an increase in the ability of these weather systems to inflict serious harm on our region.”

Fletcher, deputising for Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have reported that greenhouse gas concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere have crossed the 400 parts per million threshold.

“Those of us who have followed international climate negotiations over the last few years will recall that the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has been calling for greenhouse gas concentrations to be stabilised at well below 350 ppm in order to allow our people the opportunity to advance and, in some cases, even exist as nations rather than be swallowed by the rising seas.

“Now that our planet has achieved this dubious milestone, the outlook is for more pronounced, and prolonged, climate change. With a legally-binding and sufficiently aggressive international agreement to curb and reduce greenhouse gases still nowhere in sight, and virtual abandonment of the existing legal framework by certain key developed country parties, the discussion in some of these countries is actually shifting from pursuing emissions abatement to coping with the impacts of climate change.”

He said given the “seeming reluctance” on the part of these richer countries to significantly reduce emissions, countries such as those in the region, already recognised as being particularly vulnerable to climate change, will clearly be under even more pressure to adapt.

He said these circumstances must be considered in the context of the conclusions of numerous national and regional vulnerability assessments conducted in the Caribbean that climate change will have a significant and adverse impact on every productive sector.

“Studies point, for example, to the future inundation of a number of sea ports and airports across the region and some estimates point to the cost of climate change claiming as much as 21 per cent of gross national product (GDP) in some Caribbean countries by 2100.”

Fletcher said already, constraints such as geographic location, small size and open and relatively undiversified economies have colluded to render regional countries particularly susceptible to external shocks.

“Only now, climate change has superimposed another layer of risk as a result of sea level rise, elevated temperatures, changes in precipitation and more intense hurricanes.”

But he urged that CCORAL does not become an initiative that becomes an intellectual pursuit.

“All too often, in the region, we have invested tremendous time and effort in the development of very good policy instruments and then failed to implement them. Further, our regional organisations have often been criticised for being ineffective or too slow,” he said insisting that the regional, and national response to climate change be undertaken in a scientific and logical manner that assesses and quantifies the respective risk elements and addresses them in similar manner.

“It is also essential for such an approach not to remain the intellectual fodder of a few, but rather, to be disseminated to public sector, private sector and civil society entities that stand to benefit from its application.”

The second phase of the project will entail in-depth training for country-level decision makers and Fletcher said it should include the private sector and civil society “because the responsibility for addressing climate change resides not only with our governments, but with all social actors”.

Earlier, CCCCC executive director Dr. Kenrick Leslie described the launch of CCORAL as “a a special milestone in our regional programme to address the issues of climate change”.

He told the delegates that the Caribbean has always played a leading role in dealing with the issue and impact of climate change, and that the CCORAL allows it once more “to take the lead not only in the Caribbean but in the developing world”.

He said he also hoped CCORAL would help in “the transformational change” the region envisages as he provide a history of the events that led to the establishment of the project from 2009.

the launch also heard short messages from representatives of the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat and CDKN. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)