Remarks to the National Project Steering Committee of the (RRACC)
Remarks Delivered by:
HON. Dr. JAMES FLETCHER, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABLEDEVELOPMENT, ENERGY, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
To mark the opening of the Working Session of the
National Project Steering Committee of the
Reducing Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting
from Climate Change (RRACC)
17th January, 2012
Coco Palm Hotel
Rodney Bay, Gros-Islet
- Representatives of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States;
- Officers of the Sustainable Development & Environment Division;
- Representatives of Government, Statutory and Civil Society Organizations;
- Members of the Media
Good morning and welcome to this two-day working session of the National Project Steering Committee of the Reducing Risks to Human and Natural Assets resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project. I would also like to take this belated opportunity to wish all of you the very best for 2012.
When the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia configured and created a Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science & Technology he signaled the very strong intention of his administration to address matters pertaining to resource management and sustainable development in an integrated and strategic manner. When forest resource management, water resource management, biodiversity management, sustainable land management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and energy management were all placed under one parent ministry, an unequivocal message was sent that national development must be located on a solid, integrated platform of environmental sustainability. This message, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the thrust of my brief address to you this morning.
Making Climate Change Real
We cannot successfully address Climate Change and its impacts on our ecosystems and livelihoods if our population continues to see Climate Change as an esoteric issue or an academic discussion point.
Similarly, as policy makers, we cannot approach climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in a disjointed, piecemeal manner and expect to be able to make the sorts of changes that are necessary in the limited time available to us. We have to make Climate Change a relevant and real issue for all decision makers, organization leaders, and for every one of the over half a million people who live in the Member States of the OECS and, more specifically, the 175,000 who live here in Saint Lucia.
We have to drive home the point that addressing the impacts of Climate Change in a successful and sustainable manner is not solely the mandate of a Ministry of Sustainable Development or a Climate Change Unit in the OECS Secretariat. It is as much the responsibility of the Ministry of Education that has the responsibility for shaping the minds of future generations so that they do not go down the same non-sustainable paths that their predecessors chose.
It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health that must prepare the health sector to deal with the possibility of an increase in the incidence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. It is the concern of our Ministry of Agriculture that must address increased salinity of agricultural soils from saline water intrusion inland or altered metabolic rates in plants and higher rates of transpiration, which in turn can impact soil water content. Our Fisheries Department must start to worry about the possible impact on mangroves of increased salinity in mangrove swamps or higher temperatures, increased acidity or sedimentation on coral reefs.
The Ministry of Tourism, which has the responsibility for managing what has become our most important economic sector, must begin to appreciate the fact that sea level rise will first affect the important tourism plant that in most of our islands finds itself at the juncture of our land and marine environments. We have to look no further than the annual hurricane season to see the devastating impact that storm surges can have on our hotel plant and the tourism industry.
Water, perhaps the most precious of all resources, also finds itself in the front-line in the Climate Change battle. I have seen data that suggest the possibility of a reduction of 20% in total annual rainfall in CARICOM countries. The impact of such a reduction on water security is obvious. I could continue to list the sectors and the agencies that should be concerned with Climate Change but I am comforted by the fact that today, at least, I am speaking to the converted. However, what I remain unconvinced about is the sense of urgency with which we are approaching the need to inform and educate or the importance that we are attaching to the requirement for a coordinated, holistic approach to dealing with Climate Change.
The OECS Secretariat must also play its part in leading the charge in this area. It must demonstrate to its Member States that the way to successfully address Climate Change is through an integrated, multisector approach. The Secretariat’s Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, which has an excellent history of addressing environmental resource management issues in a holistic manner, must lead the way once again and cause its Member States to resist the impulse to act singularly and instead adopt an approach that is more coordinated and strategic. The OECS Secretariat cannot successfully address Climate Change and its attendant cross-sectoral issues solely through a Climate Change Unit, and it should not attempt to do so.
The goal of the Reducing Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) Project is to enhance the overall, long term capacity of the OECS region to respond to climate change, while strengthening the near-term resilience of Member States to climate change impacts, through concrete, on-the-ground actions.
Before I say more about this, I must express some slight disappointment that we were not able to fashion a more easily remembered title for this Project. You will note that I used the pronoun ‘we’, because in a previous life, I had the pleasure of heading the Social and Sustainable Development Division at the OECS Secretariat and working with ESDU and USAID in the conceptualization and finalization of this project. While I had, and continue to have, high hopes for this project, RRACC is not the acronym I envisaged we would be using to refer to this project.
However, because I was involved in a few of the discussions and consultations from which this project was born, I am aware that its operational foci are water and coastal resources. Fortunately for me, although I had no idea this would have been the case when I participated in one of the consultations, not too far from here, at the Bay Gardens Inn what seems like only yesterday, both of these focal areas fall under the purview of my Ministry and, not coincidentally, both feature critically in our quest for sustainable development.
I am encouraged that the RRACC Project will realize the implementation of practical adaptation actions that will hopefully leave a lasting positive impact. We have, over the last decade-and-a-half, been long on assessing and planning, but rather short on implementation and action.
As a professional, I had the dubious honour of attending the 15th and 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen and Cancun respectively. While there, I observed, firsthand, the protracted negotiations that our delegates must endure to bring home even modest amounts of the financial resources our countries need to address Climate Change. It is my sincere hope that following Durban, we will see a greater flow of resources for adaptation, as well as for mitigation.
Over the next two days, you will be deliberating on the National Environmental Mitigation Plan and Report and finalizing the national proposal for submission, via the OECS, to USAID. This proposal addresses the improved management of the water network and developing capacity in the use of GIS-related technologies to build resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change and climate variability. The sound management of our water resources is crucial to our sustainable development. Given the problems that we have experienced with water abstraction and distribution, and in particular, the unacceptably high line losses, the proposed interventions are timely.
Therefore, I wish you successful deliberations and offer you the assurance that I will be looking forward to the outcome of these deliberations and standing ready to offer any support needed to expedite the successful implementation of the RRACC Project in Saint Lucia.
I thank you.
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