Caribbean experts in the Central Pacific to study climate change impacts on atoll countries

Bridgetown, Barbados, May 29, 2012, (CDEMA) - Two Caribbean climate experts, Dr. David Farrell of the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Dr. Lorna Inniss of the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit, are currently on the central Pacific island of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) to study the climate challenges facing atoll countries and some of the solutions that are being adopted in Kiribati. Drs.  Farrell and Inniss will spend a week visiting several locations in Kiribati as part of the project “South-South Cooperation between Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management.”

One of the key objectives of the South-South Cooperation project is the sharing of knowledge and experiences between the Caribbean and Pacific small island states to build the resilience of communities to natural hazards.  The project also aims to identify potential areas of cooperation between the two regions.

During this visit, the Caribbean experts are accompanied by staff from the SOPAC Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Kiribati government, and are supported by the UN office in Tarawa, the capital city of Kiribati.

In South Tarawa, the delegation was welcomed by Ms. Miire Raieta, Secretary of the Office of the President.  Officials from several government ministries informed the visiting experts on how climate change is impacting on the livelihoods and health of people in Kiribati, and on measures that the government is undertaking to manage these impacts.  As an atoll country with high population density in its capital city, Kiribati is in a precarious situation, as climate change trends such as sea level rise and increasing severity of droughts cause many hardships, including food and water scarcity, health risks like diarrhea, dengue and fish poisoning (ciguatera), and erosion of land in residential and farming areas.

The group viewed some initiatives in South Tarawa, such as a sea wall to protect the airport runway from the ocean, a technical team testing drinking water for salinity and gauges installed at the wharf to monitor the rising sea levels.

“Coming here has been a revelation for us, to see what the issues are and how you are dealing with them.  In the Caribbean, we see climate change as something that is coming up and that we must plan for, while for you it is already here – it is an acute reality,” said Dr Farrell.

The Caribbean visitors also congratulated the Kiribati Ministry of Education on its efforts to undertake the systematic education of children on climate change issues.

The coordination of the participation of the Caribbean experts in this activity was undertaken by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Unit (CDEMA) Coordinating Unit.

The South-South Cooperation between Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management is coordinated by UNDP Pacific Centre, with extensive support from the regional UNDP Barbados/OECS office.   Partners in the Caribbean include Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), INSMET (National Cuban Meteorological Institute), the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), CARICOM Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and University of the West Indies (UWI).  Key partners from the Pacific region include the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and University of the South Pacific (USP). National agencies in both regions also play an important role.

The South-South project is supported by the UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and by the UNDP-Japan Partnership Fund.

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