Challenges of and plans to mitigate climate change

Climate Change is an existential threat to the world and small countries like Belize are the most vulnerable to its effects. In order for Belize to effectively mitigate the effects of Climate Change every citizen and organization must do their part. Oceana Belize is doing its part by partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to keep the conversation open in Belize. On Wednesday, July 27, a panel of experts sat down with lovers of the environment at the Radisson for a conference themed “The Energy of Nature vs. the Nature of Energy”.

Belize’s top Climate Change authority, Carlos Fuller, made a presentation on the threats posed to Belize by Climate Change and the efforts being made by the region to cope. Special Guest Speaker was Peruvian marine scientist Dr. Patricia Majluf. She made a presentation on the anchoveta fishery in Peru and its overall importance to the ecosystem. She demonstrated how effective harvesting of a marine product can improve sustainability of the entire marine system. Anchovetas were being used primarily as fish feed but when this is done it limits the amount available for species that depend on them for food. By focusing on anchovetas more as a food source and not a source for fish feed, the population of anchovetas has increased which benefits the entire eco system.

This turnaround in Peru would not have been possible without sound scientific data. This is one of the things Hon. Omar Figueroa says Belize needs to effetcively mitigate Climate Change. Hon. Figueroa, Minister of State for the Environment, Sustainable Development, Protected Areas and Climate Change, spoke of the present challenges Belize faces as a result of Climate Change. He points to an increase in ocean acidification which he says is “threatening the very foundation of our coral reefs while an increase in sea surface temperatures is leading to more incidences of coral bleaching and coral mortality”. Figueroa also spoke of salt water intrusion into riverine habitat and increasing coastline and beach erosion as areas of great concern. He says, “Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change will result in significant loss of lives as extreme weather events become more frequent,” and, “extensive damage to critical infrastructure such as road, telecommunications, property and other resources that are necessary for sustainable development.”

Figueroa spoke of several conventions Belize is a party to; such as the Kyoto Protocol and the 2016 Paris Agreement. Government’s commitment to mitigating climate change led to the adoption of Belize’s first climate change policy in March of 2015, the National Climate Change Policy, Strategy and Action Plan. This policy was developed by the Belize National Climate Change Committee, established in 2010. The committee spent a year meeting with key stakeholders and incorporated all sectors of the economy; including, tourism, agriculture, water resource management, health and environment, in order to develop a comprehensive plan for climate change mitigation.

Figueroa said in order to effectively address climate change there are six things that needs to be done. One, we need to integrate climate change considerations into the national development plan. Two, we need to strenghten our institutions, including departments and universities to effectively deal with and manage the effects of climate change. Three, launch an effective public awareness campaign to educate and train as many Belizeans in order to build an informed citizenry. Four, build the research capability of local institutions so we can have quality scientific data. Five, challenge youths to pursue education in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Six, strenghten partnerships between local organizations and international agencies in order to effectively respond to challenges.

Other presenters at the conference included Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, President and Executive Director of Belize Association of Planners; Roberto Pott, Belize Coordinator of Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, and Ansel Dubon, Project Manager of Energy Resilience and Climate Adaptation Project (ERCAP) in the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities.

The Guardian