CI Shorts: Caribbean sustainability and combating climate change

UNDP and Engineers without borders at Dominica Carnival [photo: UNDP]

March 2018 marks six months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated some parts of the Caribbean. It left a desire not just to repair and rebuild, but also to speed up the move towards sustainability.

While Dominica announced that it planned to become the world’s first totally climate-resilient nation and has the experts on board trying to make that happen, other Caribbean countries have also been getting on with climate-resilient projects.



Caribbean Intelligence© looks at some of the projects which are already making the difference – from plastic dumping education to a new type of roof for Dominica.

  • Is it possible to sail across the world’s oceans without using a single drop of fossil fuel? Scientists on the project Race for Water have been testing this. A vessel entirely propelled by solar energy, wind and hydrogen is on a five-year journey. From February into March, the foundation’s 35-metre boat included stops in Bermuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe. The project is also reaching out to communities at its major stops to educate local communities on how to tackle plastic pollution. The Swiss Race for Water Foundation, which is supported by UN Environment, states that if no urgent action is taken, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
  • Swiss-Swedish power grid specialist ABB has been brought in by the Jamaican authorities to put in place a microgrid and storage system which will help power the country when renewable resources are low. The 24.5MW microgrid and storage system integrates wind and solar energy into Jamaica’s power system. Jamaica Public Service Company president and chief executive Emanuel DaRosa said that the technology from ABB “will enable us to leverage clean renewables into our energy mix while securing grid stability and ensuring reliable power supply to consumers”.
  • Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, reckons it could take years to achieve the complete recovery of Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island which was devastated by Hurricane Irma. He told Vox Magazine in February that estimated recovery costs stood at US$220m – “That’s our entire budget”, he said, adding that “we don’t have the kind of resources to fund the recovery costs”. Prime Minister Browne said on climate change and the global picture: “Perhaps three years from now, we’ll be having a different conversation; we’ll be looking at a Barbuda that’s climate-resilient, that’s totally green. It [climate change] is a serious threat — not only to my country but to all coastal communities, globally....I think it requires a strong, global response. Clearly, climate change is the responsibility of all. It’s important for all humans to act to reduce emissions. In fact, the best way that large countries who rely on fossil fuels can assist us is to reduce emissions. Generally speaking, climate change is an existential threat - perhaps one of the most significant threats facing the planet.”
  • Scientists meeting at a conference in New Zealand have suggested a new classification of cyclones, taking the scale up to a category six. Currently, cyclones in the Pacific region go up to category five, in the same way as hurricanes. Following the impact of cyclones Patricia and Winston over the last few years, Penn University Climatologist Michael Mann described the scale as increasingly outdated. He said: “Scientifically, [six] would be a better description of the strength of 200mph (320km/h) storms, and it would also better communicate the well-established finding now that climate change is making the strongest storms even stronger.”
  • Dominicans are being asked to #buildbackbetter and now there’s a roadshow demonstration to help them do this. A model roof, designed by Engineers Without Borders (EWB) with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is a more resilient cover for people’s homes. The template was first shown during the Carnival Monday parade in February under the logo “24 Gauge - Don’t nail it, screw it!” with the engineers sporting T-shirts and showing off their model roof at a time when they knew they’d get a maximum audience. The model is now being demonstrated around the island. EWB’s Benjie Hayek said the roadshow “really gets us great feedback from members of the public who are seeking information from us and who are sharing their Hurricane Maria experience”. Members of the public can see and touch the roof and take home a guide on how to incorporate it into their own rebuilding.

Find out more about the safer roof from the UNDP and Engineers Without Borders

Building Back Better: Turning goodwill into strategy

The Commonwealth and Climate Change

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