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Islands nations vulnerable to climate change
Latinamerica Press
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Natural disasters negatively impact Caribbean economies.

Constant droughts, increased hurricane frequency, extreme weather phenomena, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification are some of the climate change effects that Caribbean islands are already facing, and that threaten their survival.
In response, Caribbean leaders at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), held September 1-4 in Samoa, called for adaptation to climate change to be a priority.

Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Foreign Affairs for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, stressed that “the evaluation of the economic and development health of small island developing states must include an analysis of vulnerability and resilience. At the same time, debt forgiveness, debt-for-climate swaps and debt relief must be part of any serious considerations on SIDS development, as Caribbean SIDS have experienced sluggish growth due to the adverse impact of climate change.”

The minister reminded the international community of the heavy flooding in December 2013 that cost St. Vincent and the Grenadines 17 percent of its gross domestic product. Against this backdrop, he said that the Caribbean SIDS want a “real and substantial commitment” to financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and demand a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions in 2015.

The director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, said at the conference that “coping with climate change should be seen as more than just a question of survival for small island countries: the international community should view it as a challenge to take unified action and notch up efforts to shift to a sustainable model of development.”

“Climate change has particularly profound implications for the development of SIDS, affecting their food security, livelihoods, and economies,” he added.

Size matters
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), gathered Caribbean officials at the conference for a panel on “The vulnerability of Caribbean SIDS revisited — it´s all about size.” The group addressed the challenges for Caribbean island nations as a result of their small size and limited capabilities, including trade and finance, governance and institutional capacity, disaster management and regional integration.

During the panel, Gonsalves insisted on the vulnerability of Caribbean SIDS to natural disasters and their impact on the local economies. “The impacts of natural disasters are eroding the gains in economic growth,” he said. He added that because of their small GDP, the islands are unable to finance adaptation and recovery from natural disasters. Gonsalves recommended regional integration, development financing, preferential trade, and debt relief and restructuring to overcome their vulnerability and small size.

ECLAC committed to promoting the agreements drafted in the final document of the Third Conference, “Small Island Developing States: Accelerated Modalities of Action,” also known as the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway. The chapter on climate change recognizes that “climate change and sea-level rise continue to pose a significant risk to small island developing states and their efforts to achieve sustainable development and, for some, represent the gravest threat to their survival and viability.”

Da Silva highlighted three key fronts where action is needed: helping SIDS improve their management and use of natural resources, boosting local food production and building local and regional consumption circuits, and strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters and emerging climate-related challenges.
—Latinamerica Press.

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