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UWI study centre engaged in regional climate change initiative

The Center for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), based in the Barbados, is to partner with universities in the United States to collate and analyse data on the impacts of climate change in the Caribbean.

A cadre of applied scientists in the region is also to be trained to carry out this work and provide long-term local expertise to manage and lead future efforts in climate change management.

This is to help the small island states in the region determine what actions to take to help improve land and urban planning, water resource and disaster risk management and marine ecosystem protection, according to a joint statement from foreign ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the US Department of State who met in Jamaica in June.

However, the details were still being worked out CERMES director Robin Mahon told Research Caribbean. Mahon is a marine biologist who grew up in Jamaica. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from UWI’s Mona campus and his Masters and PD at the University of Guelph in Canada. CERMES, set up in 1985, is based at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). It focuses on higher education, applied research and professional training and outreach on sustainable development in the Caribbean and offers post graduate studies in natural resource and environmental management across all three UWI campuses – in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

The CARICOM foreign ministers meeting also announced a number of other initiatives to build regional capacity in climate change adaptation. Representatives came from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haïti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting was also attended by the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

The agreement is part of the collaboration of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, a hemispheric initiative, according to its website, that focuses on renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy poverty, infrastructure, cleaner and more efficient use of fossil fuels, sustainable forests and land use, and climate change adaptation.

It was one of the outcomes of the Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009.

‘‘The new Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation Initiative will connect the University of the West Indies/CERMES, with American universities to expand research on problems and solutions specific to the Caribbean,’’ the joint CARICOM/US statement declared.

It explained that this partnership will enhance research, expand higher education programs, in which UWI/CERMES partners with the US State Department to promote outreach to policy-makers towards increasing national and regional capacity to acquire and develop data related to impacts of climate change that would allow the island nations to determine their adaptation actions.

Participants included Jamaica’s deputy prime minister Kenneth Baugh and the deputy prime minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis Samuel Condor who also chairs the CARICOM Council of Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

Since the Jamaica meeting, climate change has cropped up again on the agenda of the heads of government of Caribbean states meeting in Basseterre, the capital of the federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The political leaders said they hoped negotiations at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference at the end of 2011 in South Africa ‘‘would result in a balanced outcome which adequately addresses the issues core to the interests of the Caribbean Community.’’

They agreed to establish a team of experts to draft a regional plan of action to guide regional negotiators within the UN international environmental treaty, the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, which currently falls under a secretariat headed by Christiana Figueres from Costa Rica.

Work on a regional plan of action in preparation for the negotiations and on the Implementation Plan for the Regional Climate Change Strategic Framework should begin as soon as possible, the heads of government said.