Climate control conference hosted in SVG
September 19, 2014

Climate control conference hosted in SVG

St Vincent and the Grenadines has played host to the fourth annual regional seminar on climate change affecting the small island developing states of the Caribbean.

On Wednesday, September 17, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Rallying the Region to Action on Climate Change (RRACC) conference which was funded by USAID.{{more}}

In his remarks, Gonsalves warned: “The issue of climate change is the premier existential question facing small island developing states. Our very existence as island civilisations is under serious threat.”

The prime minister urged participants to put the issue at the centre stage of all developmental efforts. He also implored of them to build on the existing framework which deals with climate change, as opposed to treating the conference as an academic exercise.

Describing SVG as a “disaster prone” country, the prime minister lamented the fact that small island developing states contribute “very little” to global warming but are on the frontlines of continuing disasters.

He recalled that since 2010, SVG has experienced five major weather events that have caused more than EC$600 million in losses and damage.

Coupled with the various economic and financial crises that have affected not only St Vincent, but the regional and international community, the ravages of climate change are felt even more by developing nations.

In his feature address, the prime minister also touched on the issues of deforestation and how it contributes to widespread flooding; and the need for alternative energy sources (solar, geothermal, wind etc) to cope with the expected electricity base load once the international airport is complete.

“We have to be very creative in how we interface with our external environment to create spaces for ourselves for development,” he said.

Also delivering remarks was Jonathan Conly, mission director at USAID, with responsibility for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

“I’m encouraged to see such brain power focused on issues of such vital concern to the region and to our planet,” he enthused.

Conly said that over the years, the United States and other developed countries have committed to helping small island developing states “deal with adverse impacts of climate change.”

He pointed out that not only does USAID provide assistance to increase the capacity of technical and educational institutions in fields such as meteorology, hydrology and coastal & marine science; but it also funds restoration projects and initiatives involving the water sector.

One such project was recently completed in Bequia to increase the water storage capacity at a reverse osmosis plant, following declining availability of fresh water due to drought.

Another project, currently taking place on the mainland, focuses on water harvesting systems at six designated disaster shelters to avoid water shortage in times of need.

“I’m very excited about the potential that this conference holds in advancing these efforts,” said Conly. “The work you do will help re-invigorate our joint efforts to combat climate change.”

“The long term sustainability of the Caribbean region is of vital interest to the United States – both economically and environmentally.”

Bentley Browne of the OECS Commission delivered brief remarks on behalf of director general of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules.

Browne explained that the seminars are being held under the OECS USAID Climate Change Project in an effort to “highlight the vulnerability of the region.”

“Small island developing states are very cognizant of their… vulnerabilities,” he added.

Browne said that, to date, the commission has secured EC$70 million from various development partners to support regregional activities to fight the effects of climate change. (JSV)