Last December, negotiators from nearly 200 countries gathered in Paris and reached the world´s most significant agreement to address climate change. Countries will aim to keep temperatures from rising more than 2ºC by 2100 and “drive efforts” to keep temperature increases below 1.5ºC. The agreement will also create the financial infrastructure to address climate change and encourage trillions of dollars of investment for adaptation to climate change.
Vulnerable small island states emerged as the surprise power players of the conference. Because of these islands’ low elevation and small size, climate change-induced sea level rise could force thousands of their inhabitants to migrate from their countries and jeopardize their economies. Representatives from these countries pushed hard for negotiators to set a more ambitious climate target and largely succeeded.
The growth of small island states in the Caribbean is historically and inextricably linked to their dynamic and vulnerable coastlines. Over 50% of the Region’s population lives within 1.5 km of the shore; and in some countries the entire population is coastal. Capital cities and rural communities along the coast are highly dependent on coastal and marine resources for their livelihoods. Tourism, agriculture and fisheries, important economic activities in the region, all rely on the health of a wide diversity of coastal and marine ecosystems. Tourism alone accounts for 14% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 17.4% of total export earnings and 11.3% of employment. Agriculture and fisheries are fundamental for food security, particularly in the most vulnerable communities.
Recognizing these threats, a few Caribbean countries are meeting the challenge with innovative policies, specialized units trained in cutting-edge science and technology and strategic investments in an effort to adapt to a host of climate change impacts in the coming decades. Projects already underway are focusing on stabilizing shorelines, reducing flooding, improving public access and protecting the resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems and the valuable services they provide. This integrated and multisectoral response, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), is on the rise in the Caribbean as the solution for the diverse conditions of the region, whether in Barbados, the extensive archipelago of The Bahamas, the world’s second largest barrier reef in Belize where a state-of-the art- Coastal Zone Management Plan was recently approved by Cabinet or the pristine mangrove coasts of Guyana and Suriname.
As a result of the success of work on ICZM approaches, new IDB financed projects—ranging from the economic valuation of ecosystem services in coastal areas to the prioritization of ecosystem-based risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures (such as coral reef restoration to protect beaches, natural and hybrid coastal engineering solutions, real-time ocean and coastal monitoring, and citizen science)—are being piloted in The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.
In collaboration with the IDB, the Government of The Bahamas has recently embarked on a large-scale national development planning process, which includes a new national framework for climate-resilient Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), a new national economic development plan as well as an ecosystem-based development Master Plan for Andros Island, where local residents and experts are assessing natural capital trade-offs of alternative future scenarios in light of climate change. This integrated planning approach is an exciting opportunity to generate prosperity for Bahamians, while enabling them to keep their natural capital, the first line of defense against climate change.
Learn more at the seminar “Natural Capital, Climate Change and the Future of Coastal Cities” at this year’s IDB’s Annual Meeting in Nassau, Friday, April 8. at 2:15 pm.
Do you want to learn more? Sign up to attend our online seminars about climate change, natural capital, energy and urban development on the Caribbean on April 7-8.
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