UNDP advancing discussions on climate resilience in SIDS

21 Sep 2013

image from left to right: Side Event Facilitator, Julian Rogers; UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Stephen O'Malley; Executive Director of Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Ronald Jackson and Murray Simpson, Co-Director and Chief Executive Officer of CARIBSAVE

BRIDETOWN. As the Caribbean seeks to build resilience to the challenges of climate change, this issue was explored within the confines of the Inter-Regional Preparatory Meeting in preparation for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States recently concluded in Barbados, in a largely international audience that included SIDS representatives and local, regional and international experts.

Speaking during a UNDP Barbados and the OECS-hosted side event titled Building Climate Resilience and Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Management, panelists from regional Caribbean institutions, national representatives from the Caribbean and the Pacific, and a local fishing community engaged in environmental management reflected on the issue. 

UNDP’s new Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS, Mr. Stephen O’Malley emphasized resilience as a central tenet of development, and also of UNDP’s corporate mandate as outlined in the coming 2014-2017 Strategic Plan, noting the invitation by the Government of Barbados to support the initiative. He shared that there is a need for a broader debate on the challenges and strategies around climate resilience, particularly in understanding what tools, gaps and opportunities exist for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

Dr. Murray Simpson, Co-Director of The CARIBSAVE Partnership told delegates that the region faces extreme events such as lengthy droughts, heat waves, heavy rain and violent storms. However, he remarked that slow onset events like increased temperatures that affect sea and terrestrial surfaces, sea level rise, coastal erosion and coral bleaching that are most subtle and most sinister. These events are highlighted when they build up and climax into extreme events.

Mr. Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), commented that as the agency transitions from emergency management to dealing more comprehensively with hazards the business of resilience has come to the fore. Mr. Jackson said a case can now be made for greater investment in disaster risk reduction.

“It impacts on the social fabric of the people we have in the Caribbean territories,” he said. “It impacts on the economies.” He suggested that the SIDS which are constantly faced with threats from climate change have built a system of resilience that is constantly evolving.
“As a people within SIDS we have been resilient in dealing with events over time. We have been adapting as a species to what is happening. What is happening is that the changes are becoming more extreme,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Farrell, Principal of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), says the creation of products and services demanded by users in the climate sector is the focal point when building resilience to climate change globally.

Dr. Farrell noted that there is now a universal framework which includes dialogue with the most affected when providing climate services to at risk communities. He said this is a move away from the development of products and services that previously could not be used by those most affected by climate change, notably SIDS.

Mr. Fabian Hinds of the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit and Ms. Felecia Husbands of the Martin’s Bay community that is addressing environmental sustainability spoke separately to the management of coastal and marine resources.  Mr. Hinds confirmed the Barbados coastal zone management experience is well-documented and appreciated as a “best practice”.  Ms. Husbands spoke to the community micro-project that was building awareness and instilling practical skills and practices for a more resilient community.

National representatives and negotiators from the Cook Islands and Saint Lucia, Ms. Elizabeth Wright-Koteka and Mr. Crispin d’Auvergne, spoke respectively about steps in addressing extreme events and the linkage with global climate change. Ms. Wright-Koteka noted the mainstreaming of measures to address climate risk through the budgetary process in the Cook Islands and establishment of a national emergency fund, and also the importance of not separating climate change adaptation and mitigation issues.  Mr. d’Auvergne shared the assessment of the increasing risk of severe hurricanes faced by Saint Lucia based on a 2008 study that illustrated the relationship of climate change and extreme events.

The event, which was chaired by veteran regional journalist Mr. Julian Rogers, was sponsored by the UNDP Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI) and Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Vulnerability in the Caribbean (ERC) projects, the latter of which is implemented by the CIMH. 
In summary, the key points from the meeting were:

  • Climate resilience needs to be considered beyond a biophysical context to the social and economic facets
  • There are practical and good examples of mainstreaming and adaptation in the Pacific and Caribbean which should be considered
  • Building resilience requires a focus on the users
  • There is much convergence between the disaster risk reduction, climate change and resource management practitioners and there is a suggested need for further discussion in these areas.

UNDP through its Barbados and the OECS Sub-regional Office, its Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean and its regional Caribbean Risk Management Initiative, will follow up on the issues raised during the Side Event and the background paper to support programming in this area.  Specifically UNDP will advance the findings in the ongoing support to the negotiators at the UNFCC CoP in their preparations; UNDP will review its activities to strengthen the climate resilience elements; and finally UNDP will seek to develop new activities around this area, both in terms of capacity building and advocacy.

Ian King

Programme Manager
Disaster and Climate Risk Management
United Nations Development Programme Barbados & the OECS
UN House
Marine Gardens
Hastings
Christ Church
Barbados
ian.king@undp.org
Phone: 246-467-6032 Fax: 246-429-2448
Mobile: 246-836-6032