Wednesday, 25 May 2011

CARIBBEAN-ENVIRONMENT-Regional governments praised for changed attitude towards climate change

by Ernie Seon - Caribbean Media Corporation

Apia, Samoa – The head of the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, says the decision of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to give priority to climate change issues is allowing the region to implement policies relating to the environment.

 However, he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that while strides were being made at the policy development, there was urgent need for more to be done at the community level where the issues remained largely unknown and misunderstood.

“We need to continue to approach our work on two fronts, at the community level and at the policy level. We have made more progress at the policy level and the thrust must now be directed at the communities, ensuring that the schools become involved in understanding their role in addressing the effects of climate change,” Dr. Leslie said.

The CCCCC executive director was among delegates who addressed the opening of a four-day conference entitled “Lessons for Future Action: Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction in Small Island States.”

The aim of the conference is to share experiences and lessons learned in relation to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction among Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean, drawing on experiences from Australia and other countries.

The conference is co-hosted by Australia and the South Pacific Regional Environment Program and is funded by the Australian government, through the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Agency for International Development.

Dr. Leslie, whose Belize based organisation has chosen Caribbean facilitators for the Pacific exchange, said that from 2007 CARICOM government  have accepted that climate change should not be seen solely as an environment issue, but one that involves foreign policies and foreign trade as has been the case with the United States and China.

“If we keep talking about climate change solely as an environmental matter we will never get the kind of support we are looking for, so while the governments have taken the issue to a new level, there is still a whole lot more to be done,” he added.

Dr. Leslie said that over the past three years, the Caribbean has been able to make greater strides than their counterparts in the Pacific and Indian Ocean in setting up strategies for improving the environment and addressing climate change issues. 

However he conceded that very little strides had been made in enforcing policies.

“We could set up the best policies but if we don’t have enforcement it can all go to naught. So our priority at this time would be to ensure that new policies are properly implemented and enforced and then strengthen those that we have already put in place.

“This calls for stronger political will and more involvement of the people especially the youths who will be the benefactors of the future.

“It is through these young people and their community leaders that political leaders could be pressured into making the right decisions,” he told CMC. 

Dr. Leslie lamented the fact that the region has taken a long time to taget young people with regards to climate change issues.

He said he hoped the conference here would result in greater collaboration between the Caribbean and Pacific States and that Australia would extend its climate change funding programme to the Caribbean.

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