(OECS Secretariat, Castries Saint Lucia)

Participants at the Press Conference of the Climate Change Conference held in St. Lucia

Participants at the Press Conference of the Climate Change Conference held in St. Lucia

The region has been called to speed up preparations for the onslaught of climate change or face continued damage and consequent revenue losses to their main economic drivers. The call was made by climate experts presenting at the just concluded OECS climate change seminar which was held in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.

Although individual experts presented on varying climate change issues, either relating to agriculture or tourism, they mooted that one thing was clear, “climate change issues must be placed within a wider developmental context and within the regional integration agenda”. Otherwise we will continue to face “losses in our tourism product, in fisheries, in natural eco-systems, in lives and livelihoods, in crops and to infrastructure”, the experts concluded.

With potential impacts on climate change to CARICOM countries estimated at US 9.9 Billion Dollars per year or 11.3% of GDP, experts also agreed that a multi-disciplinary approach was needed to deal with the phenomenon, as impacts were wide-ranging.

As for the main economic sectors of agriculture and tourism, which were the focus of the two-day meeting, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance in Dominica, Mr Samuel Carette told a media conference at the close of the seminar, “that natural disasters and severe weather variability are flooding our farms, blocking access roads, destroying green houses, forcing rescheduling of tourism activities; thereby hampering development in Dominica, stretching already limited resources and increasing the country’s debt.”

Ignatius Jean (Left) and Samuel Carette (right)

Ignatius Jean (Left) and Samuel Carette (right)

To this end, agencies such as IICA were working with Member States in a climate-proofing initiative with the agricultural sector.

“We have to plan better for climate change adaptation and resilience, Ignatius Jean of IICCA postulated, adding “we must plant trees, keep the forest intact and use drains on the contours to reduce impacts”.

Experts also demonstrated that the tourism sector across the region was taking a beating from climate change with loss of reefs, loss of beaches, loss of biodiversity, and coastal erosion. And, according to discussions in the seminar, these impacts are causing reduced attractiveness, degrading scenic areas, reduced arrivals, reduced jobs and reduced revenues.

Some 80 participants attended this year’s seminar, making it the largest one so far in the annual OECS climate change seminar series, which was first held in 2011. In closing this year’s event,

Senior Director of Economic Affairs in the OECS Secretariat, Mr Randolph Cato said

“….the issue of climate change is an issue of time. If we don’t take fast adaptive measures to deal with climate change, we will run out of time. And given our limited resources, and expanding populations; we already have space challenges to relocate people in times of natural disasters.”

The United States Government through its funding agency, USAID, is assisting the OECS with climate change adaptation and resilience building under the RRACC Project.

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