Caribbean warned to prepare for more severe storms

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OECS member states have been urged to prepare for more extreme weather conditions and natural disasters as a result of climate change.

The warning came from Crispin d’Auvergne, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development Officer, who was a contributing panelist at an OECS climate change forum in Dominica.

The forum is part of the Vini Kozè (Let’s Chat) Series that engages citizens in discussion and debate on development opportunities and challenges facing the region.

According to Mr. d’Auvergne, a 2008 environmental study showed that while Saint Lucia sees an average of one to two Category 4 or Category 5 hurricanes per year, it is likely to increase to four or five hurricanes of that magnitude each year. Citing another study, Mr. d’Auvergne said rainfall in the Caribbean is expected to increase by 25 to 50 percent in the next five decades. These extreme weather patterns will become “the new normal” he said, adding that because the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions is likely to increase, the Caribbean should plan accordingly, preparing for more severe natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and floods.

After Dominica was devastated by Tropical Storm Erica in August 2015, the Minister for Health and Environment, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, said Dominica had never seen a disaster of such proportions in terms of damage to infrastructure and the loss of life. Infrastructural damage was estimated at $1.4 billion. Minister Darroux said the storm caused the government to revisit its land use, policies, and regulations.

The Global Environment Fund (GEF) has been helping to build resilience in vulnerable communities in Dominica through its Small Grants Program (SGP). National Coordinator of GEF-SGP in Dominica, Agnes Esprit, said GEF’s intervention is driven by the communities in which it works, and that makes for a more sustainable and people-led approach to projects.

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) was also represented at the forum. Regional Chairperson, Jamilla Sealy, said CYEN does tremendous advocacy, public awareness, and education on the environment and climate change targeted at young people and the general populace. The Caribbean Youth Environment Network was integrally involved in the climate justice campaign that championed the “1.5 to Stay Alive” initiative leading up to COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. Sealy said she is encouraged by the traction which the movement gained.

Master Scuba Diver Kenneth Samuel, who owns and operates Kenneth’s Dive Centre in St. Kitts has earned a living from the sea for over 50 years. He started off as a fisherman and transitioned into scuba diving. Now in his 70s, Mr. Samuel said he has experienced the effects of climate change which have now begun to affect his livelihood.

The OECS Public Education Forum Series (PEFS) runs until March 2017. The next forum will be held in Martinique on Feb. 24. The topic for discussion will be OECS Regional Integration with a focus on the free movement of persons, the harmonization of legislation, and investment opportunities across OECS member states.

The forum series is part of the public education component of the Economic Integration and Trade Program of the OECS, funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

The forum was held at the Fort Young Hotel in Dominica on Feb. 10.