Author: Onika Campbell | Date: 16 May 2018
St. Johns –Antigua: Although, the small islands developing states (sids) especially those within the Eastern Caribbean are among the least responsible of all nations for climate change, they are likely to suffer strongly from its adverse effects and could in some cases even become uninhabitable. This is what makes them such a special case requiring the help and attention of the international community.
The Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) and the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) recognize these challenges and are responding to them through the iLAND Resilience Project. The project seeks to combat climate change issues among the nine participating OECS member states through Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
One of the principal channels of support for small island developing States (EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES) in the area of climate change is the iland Resilience GCCA. With, resources made available through this channel, but also using resources of their own and those obtained from multilateral and bilateral sources, EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES have been able to undertake a number of important activities designed not only to meet their reporting obligations under the Convention, but also to take early action in the area of climate change.
EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES have sought and obtained resources for building their national capacities and institutions in areas relevant to climate change. Many of which have used these resources to establish climate change committees that can guide national efforts in this area, develop national climate change action plans and mitigation strategies, and initiate education, training, and public awareness campaigns designed to engage the general populace on the problem of climate change. Supported by this institutional setup, EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES have been active in developing and participating in a number of regional cooperation activities designed to help build capacity for conducting vulnerability and adaptation assessments, to mainstream climate change consideration into developing planning, to cope and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and to develop renewable energy sources.
One example of Sids cooperation on climate change is the iland Resilience GCCA project. With resources obtained from the EU through the OECS Secretariat, EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES cooperated in identifying strategies to cope with adverse effects of climate change, in the areas of:
Land Management - Urban and rural planning for sustainable development of priority sectors such as tourism, housing, agriculture, forestry, etc.
Food Security – Sustainable Fishing, Agriculture, Soil Management, and land management
Environmental Protection - Protecting functional ecosystems in the interior, along Coastlines, and within the oceans. Managing Disposal of Waste, Pollution, and Preserving biodiversity.
Managing Natural Resources - Energy, Water, land, biodiversity
Disaster Risk Management –Building resilience to Hurricanes/Storms, flooding, and drought
Economic Activity - Tourism, Business practices
In the case of Antigua & Barbuda work is underway to develop an integrated management and planning framework for cost-effective responses and adaptation to flooding associated with climate change in the Cashew Hill area, to provide training and institutional strengthening that could enhance national capacities, and to identify and assess policy options.
Mean while Town and Country Planner Frederick Southwell indicated that Climate change and sea-level rise are likely to threaten freshwater resources through saltwater intrusion within freshwater aquifers. ‘’The frequency and severity of droughts, as experienced in recent decades, may intensify in the future. Antigua and Barbuda and our neighbouring islands which are almost entirely dependent on groundwater supplies, will be seriously affected. Water resources will be threatened by a combination of droughts and lower rates of recharge of the groundwater lens on most atolls.’’
Lack of proper planning and development coupled with the Sea-level rise, along with the indiscriminate adherence of the 100 feet setbacks on the shoreline, will Southwell said; put this already threatened resource at even higher risk in EASTERN CARIBBEAN STATES that depend on the extraction of water from shallow freshwater lenses. Climate change is likely to have far-ranging effects on the environment and the economic prospects of small island developing States, as well as on the health of the people living in these areas.
In island States where rainwater is the primary source of supply, water availability is sensitive to rainfall patterns and changes in storm tracks. A reduction in rainfall coupled with sea-level rise, changes in El Niño intensity and frequency, and changes in rainfall seasonality would decrease the volume of drinking water, reduce the size of the thin freshwater lens. Additional water management and related challenges due to climate variability, climate change and sea-level rise include increased flood risks, impeded drainage and the presence of elevated water tables.
Meanwhile on Barbuda human activities such as sand mining, coastal and beach erosion is already a problem on many islands – a problem that is likely to be exacerbated by sea-level rise.
Antigua and Barbuda is currently losing its mangrove ecosystems at an annual average rate of about 1.5–2 per cent, with a sea-level rise of 3–4 millimetres a year. Based on this, it is estimated that there will be few, if any, mangroves left in this nation by 2075, because the coastal slopes of most areas will not allow for landward retreat of these trees. If the sea level rises 10 millimetres a year, mangroves could disappear from Antigua and Barbuda by as early as 2030 or 2035.
Ruleta Comacho, Antigua & Barbuda Iland Resilience GCCA Project Co ordinator said however SIDS recognize that adapting to climate change and variability could be costly and that in some cases it may require changes in societal norms and behaviour. ‘’Given the wide range of uncertainties associated with climate change and sea-level projections and with vulnerability and adaptation assessments, however, a no-regrets principle is important in order to use and manage limited resources in a sustainable manner and to cope with the many changing conditions – including climate change –‘’
In spite of the wide range of adaptation options that could be successfully implemented Comacho said , some fundamental constraints limit the choices of options and their implementation. Broadly, these barriers fall into three categories
• Agriculture – management and infrastructure development
• Water resources – more efficient management of both demand and supply; improved monitoring and forecasting systems for floods and droughts desalination of sea water)
• Human settlement and infrastructure – hazard mapping; improved forecasting and early warning systems; insurance provision (Antigua and Barbuda)
• Public health – development of a health surveillance and forecast system; strengthening of data collection and reporting systems; vaccination campaigns and health education (Saint Kitts and Nevis) •
Tourism – protection of essential facilities and infrastructure as part of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy (Grenada, Saint Lucia)
zone – integrated, sustainable coastal zone resource management (Dominica)
Note: Onika Campbell is the Antigua & Barbuda Media Liaison Specialist, ILAND Resilience OECS GCCA Initiative