Belize Brings Global Experts To Discuss Climate Change

Last week Monday, 7news showed you the international consultation that the Ministry of Energy was participating in which discussed ways to make the country more energy efficient.

The country’s Energy Director explained that Belize is one of the most wasteful countries in terms of energy when compared one the per-capita basis – which basically means the country’s carbon footprint exceeds its needs.

And, talk of carbon emissions leads inevitably to climate change and that’s what was discussed today at summit of climate experts held in Cayo. It was planned by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center and we attended the first day of that meeting:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Today, climate experts from all over the world were in Cayo for Belize’s hosting of the first ever Intra-African Caribbean Pacific Global Climate Change Alliance Programme.

If the lengthy name seems daunting, it shouldn’t because the climate change issue has been around for years now, and the effects of it are clear as day to see with erratic weather patterns, the rise in sea level and the increase in average global temperature.

It is a matter which these experts are taking very seriously, but today the EU Delegation Representative used a little humor to break the ice, and open up the discussion:

Cosimo Lamberti Fossati – Representative, EU Delegation in Belize
“Our host that are so nice that you practically feel at home – I started working with Belize 7 years ago, I moved to Belmopan City three and a half years ago and I really feel at home. Often I have to correct myself when I say ‘we’ should do that and ‘we’ are doing this, ‘sorry the Government of Belize is doing this’ – we are helping them doing things.”

But while this meeting focuses only on the chosen ACP region, these representatives will seek to put the discussion into the global perspective.

Cosimo Lamberti Fossati 
“Talking to you is preaching to the convert – I would say climate change is a serious issue, it knows no border, never mind if you’re in Europe, in the Caribbean, Africa or Asia, that is a common problem. That’s one of the reasons why we welcome these kinds of meetings for the experiences from different countries and different regions are put together.”

Joseph McGann – Program Manager, EU GCCA Program 
“All the countries in the region are adversely being impacted by climate change – that is where the low coastal states, we have small islands therefore in terms of overall climate change we don’t generate any significant amount of greenhouse gases. But because of the impact of global warming our coastal areas are subjected to sea level rise and also our inland areas are subjected to increase temperatures and erratic precipitation patterns and so these things make the countries more vulnerable to climate change impacts.”

And as a result, they are trying to help governments in the regions to take prudent steps to intervene and slow the effects where possible.

Joseph McGann 
“The programme includes 16 CARICOM countries and our overall objective is to help the national governments to better adjust to the adverse impacts of climate change as we’ve projected to happen within the next century. We know that by providing them with resources to monitor the climate, to build capacity, to make decisions that will address climate change and also provide them with resources to actually respond to the adverse effect of climate change. So it’s a three-fold step – we advise them, we provide them with monitoring information and data and we provide them with resources to actually do implementation on the ground.”

Dr. Kenrick Leslie – Executive Director, CCCCC
“We have to accept that we cannot reverse the changes that are ongoing and are still to come. We have to remember that what we are seeing today – it was mentioned that the global average temperature has risen to 0.8 degrees so far but in our region it is over 1 degree already so it is not uniform – that’s the average but we are above that. Secondly, what is taking place today in terms of emissions – the impact will come100 years from now so we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Now to come back to the question ‘what can we do?’. We need to go back to the fundamental issues of what is causing the climate to change and it is the use of fossil fuel. Therefore, in countries like Belize and the rest of the Caribbean it is important that we reverse the use of fossil fuel and therefore go more and more to indigenous renewable energy – that will help us in a number of ways. It will reduce in the end the cost of energy which will help to increase our competitiveness in terms of industries and so on.”
Joseph McGann 
“One of the things we are also doing this is to provide them with monitoring equipment for Coral Reef. The Coral Reef as you know is an important part of the Caribbean economy in terms of Tourism, Fisheries etc., so we’re helping them to monitor the coral reef and impact the climate change and the coral reefs.”

The experts say that while monitoring the situation may not be as attractive as reversing the effects of climate change, it can be nearly as effective.

Dr. Kenrick Leslie
“To understand that we also need to monitor and understand what the rate or rising of sea level is. Globally we are seeing about three millimeters per year – that might sound small to you but in ten years 3mm is 30 mm and it is 25.4 mm per inch so that is over an inch rise. And you might say ‘what is an inch?’ But now think in terms of the water table, it is one inch higher and therefore any construction that we do will be impacted by that. Our roads will have to be built at a higher level – those are some of the things that we have to take into consideration in terms of designs. So instead of a road designed to last 25 years because of sea level rise, it might only last 10 years – you’d have to reinvest.”

So, while Belize is one of the nations with a very small impact on this change, that doesn’t keep us safe from harm and the experts will look to the ACP Secretariat Representative for the worse case scenarios affecting the bigger countries.

Olusola Ojo – Representative, ACP Secretariat
“If you talk about the country I’m from – I work the ACP Secretariat in Brussels but originally I’m a Nigerian and you can agree with me that as a big country with a population of over 150 Million people, the impact of climate change is very enormous. Impacting the various sectors of agriculture, the economy and then there is need especially when you realize that your area is an oil producing country then you realize that there is a greater impact. Then couple with the impact of climate change it’s becoming an enormous problem that requires interventions.”

Back at home, this meeting is not happening in a vacuum; the Government of Belize is taking climate change very seriously.

Dr. Wendel Parham – CEO, Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development
“We’re getting a lot of interest throughout the country and what really is time change and what is happening with all this flooding and erratic rainfall and what we can do to moderate these kind of circumstances. Right now we’re having salt water infusions farther up to the river, into the soil so that would impact agriculture – that is one of the things that is happening in a rising sea level so we have salt water going further in. It is affecting our ability to grow crops and grow soils and it also affects your infrastructure if you’re building concrete with iron, you know what happens when salt is in the system – you have difficulties maintaing the buildings. Many people are experiencing problems with water coming up in their land so we have to talk about trying to build sea walls to keep it out, so we are concerned about that. I think in designing our new developments we will have to try to move away from the lower levels. We want to do more activities to inform the public what is climate change – what is this happening and what we can do.”

The meeting continues tomorrow.