Caribbean Experts Visit Kiribati to View Climate Change Impacts on Atoll Countries
[Tarawa, Kiribati - May 25, 2012] Two top Caribbean experts have arrived in Kiribati for a study visit to view the climate challenges facing atoll countries and some of the solutions that are being adopted in Kiribati. Dr. David Farrell the Principal of the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and Dr. Lorna Innis, Deputy Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) will spend a week visiting several locations in Kiribati.
The Caribbean experts are in Kiribati under the auspices of the project “South-South Cooperation between Pacific and Caribbean Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management” which encourages a systematic sharing of knowledge and experiences to strengthen community safety and resilience to a range of natural disasters in both regions. During this visit they 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.
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. Some of the key impacts of climate change in Kiribati include food and water scarcity, a rise in diseases such as diarrhea, dengue and fish poisoning (ciguatera), and erosion of land in residential and farming areas.
Numerous Caribbean islands face similar threats due to climate change, but these are not yet as extreme as those found in Pacific atoll countries such as Kiribati.
“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 were impressed with the systematic education of i-Kiribati children on climate change issues, starting from Class 1, and congratulated the Ministry of Education on these efforts. Potential areas of collaboration between the Caribbean and Pacific in areas of common concern were identified, such as improved water testing and coastal protection solutions.
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. In North Tarawa, the Caribbean experts observed how giant swamp taro pits have been destroyed by incoming seawater in recent years, which is worsened by climate change pressures. The loss of this taro production means than people on this island have a harder time feeding their families, complying with ceremonial duties, and no longer have surplus taro to share with relatives in the capital city.
Yesterday, the group travelled to the outer island of Abaiang to meet with the local community and view climate change impacts on their daily lives.
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.