United Nations Resident Coordinator, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (centre), listens attentively as Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Dr. Lorna Inniss (left), makes a point about the coastline at Folkestone Marine Park. At right is Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Issues of climate change and disaster risk reduction should not only be a matter of concern for the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage or the Department of Emergency Management, but for all ministries.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, stressed this point following a tour to highlight the impact of climate change along Barbados’ coasts.?? She was accompanied by Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres and other Government officials yesterday.

"The climate change we see now has new diseases like chikungunya also borne by the aedes ageypti mosquito that [causes] dengue. The link between climate change and health is clear, and its impact on agriculture.

"All our sectors need to be working in a much more integrated fashion as we look at the development process for Barbados going forward," she said.

She added that Barbados had to continue working on research in the field of science which was one of the areas the UN supported Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean on. [It is] "The scientific development and understanding of the coastal changes, … the changes in our biodiversity, the possible impacts on health, the impacts on agriculture all across the sectors that is really important," Mrs. Gyles-McDonnough said.

The UN representative pointed out that it was therefore, critical for Caribbean leaders to make future policies and programmes based on available data and science. She explained that with scarce resources available, it was important to ensure that the investments targeted addressed the identified problems.

Commending the work of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Mrs. Gyles-McDonnough said the Government and other institutions were making a strong effort at climate change adaptation, mitigation and reducing disaster risks.

But, she stressed, there was still a need to ensure that members of the community were fully aware of the part they played as individuals in terms of climate change adaptation, and reducing any risk of disaster.

She suggested that work done on the Richard Haynes Boardwalk was a "fantastic idea of a project" which many thought was just for a social benefit, but was really designed to protect the coastal zone. "The fact that people have not really realised this is testimony to how well integrated the engineering and design is into the social life as well as the tourism industry which is one of the main sectors of the economy…," she said.

She added that integrated development planning was also critical as issues of climate change and disaster risks were taken into account at a number of levels including the public sector, infrastructural development and through legislation and enforcement.

Associate Programme Officer in Adaptation with the UNFCCC, Livia Hollins, also noted that one of the highlights of yesterday’s tour was the close connections which Barbadians had with their environment making it their way of life.

The first-time visitor to the island explained that just thinking about where Barbados’ ground water originated meant the relevant officials had to constantly manage water reservoirs and consider what was going into the island’s soil at all times.

"To me, that is quite special to have that intimacy with your environment," she stated.


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