Caribbean populations are at high risk to the impacts of natural hazards such as sea level rise and hurricanes which are exacerbated by climate change. More than 50 percent of the region’s population lives within 1.5 kilometers of the shore and approximately 70 percent of the population lives in coastal cities and settlements. Many settlements, especially informal settlements, are constructed with poor building materials or are located in areas susceptible to flooding, coastal erosion and land slippage.
Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone trap heat energy from the Sun and cause the atmosphere to warm accelerating climate change. Although these gases may be naturally produced, human activities have accelerated their production. Carbon dioxide, for example, can be produced by burning fuel in automobiles or in the generation of electricity. Measures which reduce the use of automobiles and generation of electricity based on fossil fuels or replace fossil fuel generated energy with renewable energy, will reduce carbon dioxide emission and thus contribute to the mitigation of climate change. Also critical is to adapt to the impacts of climate change using a combination of hard and soft engineering solutions.
While individuals may freely choose to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ to contribute to the mitigation of climate change or initiate simple adaptation measures (e.g. water tanks), progressive public policy may encourage them to do so. As large-scale adaptation and mitigation measures may be costly, they may require State intervention. National governments may have the power to take the lead, but municipalities can and must also play a key role.
This project which we have titled ‘Building Resilience in Caribbean Municipalities’, is being implemented by blueSpace Caribbean for the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy (GCoM) in association with the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) through the EU-funded International Urban Cooperation Latin America and Caribbean (IUC LAC) project.
GCoM is an international alliance of more than 10,000 cities and local governments with a shared long-term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to an inclusive, just, low emission, resilient society. One of the aims of the IUC LAC project is to help establish and grow the GCoM initiative in the Caribbean region. To date support has been focused on establishing the Caribbean as a formal GCoM region and engaging regional stakeholders to develop a basic governance structure as well as some early recruitment of pioneering cities to the initiative.
The project aims to lay the foundation by which municipalities can determine their contribution to GHG emissions, evaluate preparation for the impacts of climate change, and increase access to sustainable energy. Tracking progress on these initiatives based on Climate Action Plans and Energy Access Plans will determine how municipality-initiated actions can support a reduction in GHG emissions and improve resilience.
Engaging municipalities can improve efficacy of mitigation and adaptation efforts as it allows for better tailored local solutions, which can both achieve the project’s stated goal as well as other complementary goals important to the municipality such as local economic development, reduction of poverty and public health. Such approaches encourage linkages between national agencies, universities and research institutions and municipalities and ultimately strengthens the national response.
Further, municipalities now have an additional rationale to lobby national governments for infrastructural improvements or other interventions in their communities. Also, demonstrating leadership in this global fight and improvement of municipalities’ capacity for evidence-based decision making can assist in efforts to achieve greater devolution of authority from national government to municipalities. In support, GCoM aims to work with municipalities to facilitate access to private sources of finance to fund local projects, thus having less dependence on funding from national government and building autonomy.
In many countries in the Latin American region, municipalities often have high levels of autonomy with planning responsibilities and revenue generation mechanisms etc. We recognize that Caribbean municipalities may not have the levels of autonomy, capacity or resources as their counterparts in the region and there is need to create a sub-region for the Caribbean with specific adaptation of the broader tools of GCoM. As such, the main goals of the project are to:
- Modify a Common Reporting Framework for measuring GHG emissions, mitigation and adaptation capacity and related issues developed by the GCoM to suit Caribbean realities;
- Create a typology of Caribbean cities that will allow a simpler generalized version of the reporting template suited to the different types and sizes of Caribbean cities;
- Create a regional technical working group to discuss the evolution of the templates and assist in resolving issues in populating the templates with relevant data;
- Engage a range of relevant technical and specialized regional agencies in partnership to achieve the objectives of this regional network; and
- Encourage municipalities to join the GCoM and populate the templates.