The Caribbean has been put on notice – reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2100, or face significant challenges!

Challenges such as coastal erosion, coral bleaching, loss of mangroves, increase in the frequency of unusual heat extremes and ocean acidification, are now ???knocking on the doors??? of Small Island Developing States unless the realities of climate change are addressed urgently.

And, it is an issue that has not gone unnoticed by Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, as he issued a clarion call to CARICOM-member states to remember that ???it is our responsibility as members of CARICOM to continue advancing the importance of pursuing a climate-resilient development agenda for all CARICOM states???.

He was at the time delivering the keynote address at the launch of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, at the Frank Collymore Hall, on Tuesday.

The Minister noted that there were projections of rising temperatures by 1.4 degrees Celsius above present levels. Precipitation was expected to decrease by five per cent and sea levels to rise by between 0.5 and 0.6 metres.?????These forecast serious concerns for our agriculture, fisheries, health and tourism sectors and our very ability to grow a viable and sustainable economy,??? he said.

Director with the UN Secretary General???s Climate Change Support Team, Selwin Hart, also made it clear that ???climate change is a defining issue of our time. It is defining our present [and] our response will define our future???.

The evidence of the severe impacts of climate change and rising sea levels is already here, with seven out of 10 Caribbean countries suffering the highest average economic losses from climate-related disasters between 1992 and 2012.

As a result, Mr. Hart stressed that the Caribbean could not simply ???ride out??? the global crisis and hope for the best. ???Our region must be at the forefront of the global response of climate change. One of the more positive messages from the report is that despite a closing window of opportunity to act, the world has the means to limit climate change and build a more prosperous sustainable future,??? he stated.

He cautioned that without urgent action within less than a decade to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the region risked increasingly and pervasive irreversible impacts.

These climate change-related impacts have the power to exacerbate existing challenges and create new ones such as ocean acidification, pointed out Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Leonard Nurse.

He stated that delaying adaptation measures was ill-advised, but noted that strategies employed must be appropriate to the circumstance. ???Individual countries must conduct an assessment of their risk profile,??? he suggested.

So just what are the solutions to keeping the greenhouse gas emissions at a manageable level???For starters, it is important to recognise that the solutions to climate change impacts require co-operative action.

Climate Finance Adviser of the Caribbean Development Bank, Leon Charles, made the point that no one country alone can solve the climate change problem. ???It is a trans-boundary issue. The emissions in Barbados do not affect Barbados only; it affects the United States, Russia everybody else… It is a global problem and it requires a global solution. And a global solution therefore requires all countries to work together,??? he stated.

Mr. Clarke further explained that keeping the emissions at a manageable level were technically and economically feasible.?????It is technically feasible because the technology for energy efficiency for renewable energy and reduction in deforestation???already exist and are being implemented,??? he said, adding political will was needed to deploy the technology.

On the economic side, Mr. Charles pointed out that the cost in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of implementing the technical solutions was less than two per cent of global GDP.??At the end of the day, he noted, there will be winners and losers in the situation, as some sectors would be phased out while new ones emerged.

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