Weathering the storm

Borrowing from the PPCR model, government, business, and community leaders in Belize are coming together to plan a climate resilient future. (video: Government of Belize et al)

When you mention Belize, most people imagine white sandy beaches lined with warm Caribbean waters that invite tourists to exotic views of aquatic life and endless wonderment of nature. But there’s another side—one that is fragile and vulnerable to climatic changes that are already affecting livelihoods and Belize’s economy. Determined to transform Belize’s future, business and community leaders, as well as representatives from each ministry, are standing up to climate change by assessing past mistakes, offering fresh ideas, and looking forward to identify a path to build climate resiliency (video).

As you fly into Belize City, the financial and industrial center of Belize and home to the country's only international airport, the low-lying terrain is dramatic. Pools of water expose the frequent flooding that occurs, and the coastline appears to dissolve seamlessly into the Caribbean Sea. Already small changes in sea-level rise are making significant impacts on Belize’s most populated city.

Salt water intrusion, floods, and coastal erosion are causing huge losses to many businesses along the coast and inland. On average, weather-related events cause economic losses of 3.94% of GDP[1]. Particularly hard hit are the agriculture and tourism industries, which account for more than 50% of the economy and directly impact the nearly 350,000 people living in Belize.

In 1970, the official capital was moved from Belize City to Belmopan after a hurricane nearly devastated the city. Forty years later, nearly 70% of Belize’s population lives in low-lying areas and depends on the only main highway that connects these two most populated and economic areas. Heavy rains and storms repeatedly damage and disconnect roads for days, and impede the mobility of Belizeans. 

Belize is now determined to move forward with an ambitious plan to answer its biggest development question: “How can we create a climate resilient Belize?” Using a participatory, multi-sectoral approach based on the experience from the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), an initiative under the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), Belize has the opportunity to apply the lessons learned from the 20 implementing countries, including those in the Caribbean.

A “climate resilient Belize” is the new mantra for the future investment plan being spearheaded by the Government of Belize and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Belmopan. The development of  the National Climate Resilient Investment Plan (NCRIP) for the first time brought together all sectors, ministries, communities, and businesses to agree on how Belize can adapt to current and future climate impacts, including severe flooding that routinely affect its citizens and paralyze its economy.

On July 4, the Government of Belize kicked off its first national stakeholder meeting to strategize and develop investment ideas under the NCRIP. During the meetings and planning phase, stakeholders began working together to identify potential investments that would allow Belize’s society and economy to bounce back from intense and frequent climatic challenges. “Just because we are hit by a hurricane, we do not need to have a disaster. We need to be able to rebound quickly. This is building climate resilience,” said one of the participants.  

The participants were eager to share their ideas and talk about the ongoing issues that have prevented a holistic approach such as this one. Previous development plans have been conducted in isolation or have been too focused on one given problem. However, in spite of typical divisions and priorities for sectors and communities, there was a strong underlying concern about the country’s ability to respond to climate change. Each representative commented on the need to work together through the PPCR approach in order to truly develop an integrated national plan to address climate change. “I really applaud the government for taking this approach,” said Nadia Bood, Director of the World Wildlife Fund Belize.

For more information, contact the national NCRIP focal point, Marion Cayetano, [email protected].

Natural Hazard Doesn’t Have to Be Disastrous… Belize Looks at Its Resilience

Belize lies in the heart of the hurricane zone and with that reality comes the need to have in place some type of national climate resiliency. Towards that end, the Government of Belize and its multi-lateral investment partners today reviewed Belize’s National Resilience Investment Plan, or NCRIP for short. The plan looks at the Government’s ability towards building climate change, climate variability and adverse weather. It entailed eight months of consultations with the public sector, civil society and non-government organizations to identify the kinds of interventions that could be taken to alleviate potential catastrophic situations when disasters do happen. Marion Cayetano, who is the Government’s National Focal Point, or NCRIP, says the bottom line rests in being proactive as opposed to being reactive.

Marion Cayetano

“We could have a natural hazard and not have a disaster if our people are able to rebound quickly, if our roads are able to withstand the impacts, our airports are able to manage, our ports continue to do business, our private sector operates and people work. So, the objective here is to see what can be done to help to ensure that these various aspects of the people, the environment and the economy is able to rebound whenever a natural hazard impacts Belize. What has to be done is to take action when there is no disaster to prepare the economy and the people to limit the impacts of these hazards. Recovering after a disaster is more expensive in the short and medium term than building resilience to the hazard and often time when we get a disaster and we are trying to recover, we don’t get back to the same state as before the hazard and so, the idea here is to try to integrate into development planning, actions to enable the economy and the people to withstand hazards. The plan and the discussion have identified four areas under which actions can be taken and a total of about sixteen intervention areas. The four components, if we may call them that, are Data and Knowledge Transfer; Building Resilience in our Physical Assets; Non-Physical Interventions and Regulatory Interventions.”

The Cabinet has endorsed the preparation process for the National Climate Resilience Investment Plan. According to Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Yvonne Hyde, told Love News that the Government is committed to ensuring that as much funds is accessible to implement the Plan.

Yvonne Hyde

“We don’t want to put something in place that is, I will use my phrase, hifalutin and without substance and we feel that with proper prioritizing, because obviously there are going to be things in the plan which are much more important in terms of the medium term than others and so, we basically have to decide what we want to do short, medium and long term but it will be in the context of our medium term strategy. This plan will be an important component in the preparation of our next medium term development strategy which we are referring to as the growth and poverty reduction strategy and work will begin on that shortly and this plan will be an important ingredient in that preparation.”

The plan encapsulates the next ten years of which Belize has taken the charge in the Caribbean.