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The Crusade of Island Nations


By Ulric Trotz


Twelve Caribbean countries whose economies depend on their coastal areas have joined forces to prepare today for tomorrow's challenges arising from global warming.

BARBADOS - Small island states with fragile ecosystems are the principal members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and their future prosperity hangs on the preservation of their coastal areas, where the majority of the population lives and most economic activity occurs.

These seaside zones are home to important marine resources, extensive biological diversity and strategic industrial, tourism, energy, transport and communications sectors.

The coastal belts, with their immense wealth, are particularly threatened by the adverse effects of climate change. In order to respond to these risks, twelve Caribbean countries signed on to a four-year project (1997-2001) known as Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change (CPACC).

Financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project is executed by the Organisation of American States (OAS) in partnership with the University of the West Indies Centre for Environment and Development, Barbados.

Through vulnerability assessment, adaptation planning and capacity building, CPACC's overall objective is to support preparations to cope with climate change in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

The project - which has emerged as a focal point for regional initiatives in meeting the goals established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - has successfully developed a model for co-operation and has made notable progress in setting up institutional and technical outputs.

From the institutional point of view, a major achievement was the creation of the Regional Project Implementation Unit (RPIU). One of the most important technical achievements, meanwhile, has been the regional network of 18 sea-level and climate monitoring stations - the world's most advanced multi-country integrated system of its kind.

CPACC also involves a computer-based network linking most of the key regional and national institutions to facilitate information sharing and dissemination of climate change data.

Additionally, progress has been made in developing a Coastal Resources Inventory System (CRIS) as a tool for supporting decision-making processes in management of these assets.

The region's political leaders have endorsed CPACC. The proposal for the RPIU to evolve into a Regional Climate Change Centre beyond 2001 was approved at several political forums and ultimately won the endorsement of CARICOM heads of government at their July 2000 meeting in Canouan.

The Centre is to collect, analyse and disseminate climate change observation data, facilitate Caribbean positions on the UNFCCC, assist in public awareness and education campaigns, promote regional and national equitable benefits under Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms, foment information exchange with Latin America and develop regional research programmes.

Currently being developed is a programme to follow up on CPACC after its conclusion in December 2001. This programme is expected to build on the foundation established by CPACC and further enhance the region's capacity to address climate change challenges.


* The author is director of the CPACC Regional Project Implementation Unit..

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