Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. Friday, November 27, 2020— A report which provides critical analysis and discussion on Caribbean climate, variability and trends, and projections was released by The University of the West Indies (The UWI) on Monday, November 23, 2020. The Report was produced with grant funding from the ACP-EU-CDB Natural Disaster Risk Management in CARIFORUM Countries programme (NDRM), which is funded by the European Union and managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Entitled the State of the Caribbean Climate Report, the publication is one of two components of a project led by the Climate Studies Group at The UWI’s Mona Campus. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology is a key project partner and contributor. Instituto de Meteorologia in Cuba also participated in aspects of its production. It is geared towards increasing decision-makers’ basic understanding of climate variability and change, facilitating evidence-based planning and policy, and implementing prioritised actions tailored to respond to climatic threats as well as sector-specific sensitivity contexts.
The virtual launch event featured remarks by Dr. Warren Smith, President, Caribbean Development Bank; Mr. Luis Maia, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of EU to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM; Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles; Professor Dale Webber, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Principal, The UWI, Mona Campus and an overview of the Report by Professor Michael Taylor, Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology, The UWI and co-Director, Climate Studies Group Mona. The launch was streamed live on UWItv and also featured a panel discussion including two of the scientists who worked on the Report: Dr. Tannecia Stephenson, Senior Lecturer attached to the Climate Studies Group at The UWI, Mona Campus, and Dr. Cédric J. Van Meerbeeck, a Climatologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology. Dr. Yves Robert Personna, Project Manager at CDB’s NDRM, who oversaw the project joined as a third panelist.
During his presentation, Professor Michael Taylor noted that over the past four years, looking at the quantity and category of tropical storms in the region highlights some stark Caribbean climate realities. Among these realities include: the simple truth that climate is rendering our development pillars unreliable; future climate will make developmental goals unattainable; and that accounting for climate will help make development agendas achievable. “Facing these challenges requires information that is contextual, at scale and accessible” he stated, and that this is what the Report seeks to achieve. It consists of 11 chapters compiled by 31 authors from three different Caribbean institutions. More importantly, Professor Taylor described the Report as “a review document of authoritative works and recent studies on climate change, climate variability and climate impacts specific to the Caribbean and a first stop reference to Climate information for the Caribbean.”
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles asserted the regional university’s strong legacy of world-class research work on climate change and sustainable development and its established track record of action. He explained that the University’s Triple A Strategic Plan calls for close alignment between university research and other activities, critical stakeholders, and sectors of our region. “Our strategic plan insists that our University must be an activist institution in respect of these large and fundamental challenges facing the region,” he said. Underscoring that the science from UWI research has been made available to all stakeholders regionally and internationally for decades he added, “We are once again pleased to partner with CDB and EU and others to provide this science to guide policy and planning. Global challenges like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic remind us that the world is one interconnected system and this partnership underscores the instrumental role for higher education in this system.” Vice-Chancellor Beckles also specially urged that going forward, “stakeholders provide a more central role for regional female scientists whose perspectives on the matters at hand reveal subtle but important dimensions.”
Dr. Warren Smith shared that seeing first-hand the devastation from recent hurricanes in the region reinforced his own conviction that climate change must remain at the top of CDB’s development agenda and emphasized the urgency of Caribbean governments’ building resilience to climate change. He stated, “The Report holds special significance for CDB” as the Bank “continues to play its part by providing financial and technical assistance to our borrowing member countries.” Dr. Smith commended Professor Taylor for leading his team of specialists who crafted the Report acknowledging, “It can be added to the body of high-quality reference material produced for our region.”
Mr. Luis Maia stated, “Knowledge and information is the cornerstone of our action and to reinforce international networking is our DNA. Partnership, collaborative work, and cooperation are particularly important when it comes to climate change since it is a challenge that requires a global response, and working in silos is no longer valid or productive. In that respect, this partnership project represents an important milestone contributing to set the grounds for solid climate action.”
“We’re grateful to the CDB for its invaluable support and the EU for making all this possible,” said Professor Dale Webber. “Data at the heart of the decision-making is an important part of bringing the Caribbean to where we would like it to go…Our research, being multidisciplinary affords the opportunity to work with partners to get to the right solutions. He highlighted that the University’s role in education as an educational institution is important, “But our role in providing answers and data to inform the decision-making process is even more important”.