PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Mar 16 (IPS) - Failure to adapt to climate change will derail the development aspirations of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom), researchers warn, siphoning off an average of five percent of 2004 gross domestic product regionwide by 2025.The predicted costs could rise to as much as 75 percent by 2100 for smaller nations, says the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
Meeting in Suriname last week, Caricom leaders acknowledged the severity of the threat, adopting a common strategy dubbed the "Implementation Plan for the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change".
The problem now is how to pay for it.
The CCCCC, which drafted the plan at Caricom's request, noted that "these concerns will require both adaptation and mitigation actions, which will necessitate significant and sustained investment of resources" that Caribbean countries will be unable to raise on their own.
"These climate challenges are compounded by the fact that Caricom states are relatively small, have an exceptionally high level of external debt - in some instances above 100 percent of GDP - and depend heavily on expensive imported fuel," Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CCCCC's executive director, told IPS.
He noted that fuel prices "reached 147 dollars per barrel in 2008, with 21 percent of GDP, or four times the food import bill of four billion dollars, being expended on this product in 2010.
"This means that Caricom states do not have the necessary resources to implement adaptation programmes," he said, adding "given the scale of these costs, (it) will mean that the economies of the Caricom states are in perpetual recession."
Leslie said that socioeconomic development and adaptation measures, such as replanting of mangroves, better land use planning, and building coastal defence structures against rising sea levels are closely intertwined.
"Adaptation is increasingly described as climate resilient development or development under a hostile climate. It is the ability of states to withstand the vagaries of a changing climate, or even if impacted negatively, how quickly they are able to response and rebound," he said. More