Cayo, Belize is more than just the home of The Lodge at Chaa Creek; the once sleepy little town of San Ignacio is now a place where all kinds of things happen.
Climate experts from all over the world met there this week (18 July 2013) to discuss one of those environmental issues of burning interest to all of us here – the very real problem of climate change.
(Those of you who do not believe in human-created climate change can feel free to stop here and go back to inventing the wheel or decorating your caves. For the rest, read on…)
Yes, Belize had the honour of hosting the first ever Intra-African Caribbean Pacific Global Climate Change Alliance Programme. While the name may be almost as challenging as the problem, the goal is straightforward and the objectives are clear. There is no longer any doubt that the time has come for governments, business and NGOs around the world to work towards mitigating the effects of climate change as much as possible while working out long-term solutions.
This is a burning global issue, but this week’s meeting had a regional focus with major implications for Belize’s future. With so many low lying coastal communities, cayes, and the danger to one of our most important national treasures, the Belize Great Barrier Reef, Belize, like many Caribbean and island nations, has a definite investment in finding solutions to this problem. And sooner than later.
The irony, of course, is that while small APC countries like Belize have had a very low impact on the environment, they are the first to suffer the effects of climate change, and this was not lost on the attendees.
Fortunately, this unfair fact of life doesn’t deter the enthusiasm of representatives from smaller developing nations from rolling up sleeves and working towards solutions.
There is now no doubt that sea levels are rising and that erratic rainfall and warming temperatures are starting to play havoc around the world. “Frankenstorms”, wild tornadoes, changes to the hurricane season and shrinking polar icecaps are now all too familiar but there is a philosophy that since humankind had the means to create this mess, we may have the wherewithal to fix it.
That’s why these conferences are so important. And rather than add even more hot air to the atmosphere, the San Ignacio group was refreshingly committed to speaking about practicalities.
Take, for example, the words of one of the key speakers, Dr Kenrick Leslie – Executive Director, CCCCC. (We apologise for the lengthy quote, but feel it’s better to let the experts speak)
“We have to accept that we cannot reverse the changes that are ongoing and are still to come. We have to remember that what we are seeing today – it was mentioned that the global average temperature has risen to 0.8 degrees so far but in our region it is over 1 degree already so it is not uniform – that’s the average but we are above that.
“Secondly, what is taking place today in terms of emissions – the impact will come100 years from now so we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Now to come back to the question ‘what can we do?’ We need to go back to the fundamental issues of what is causing the climate to change and it is the use of fossil fuel. Therefore, in countries like Belize and the rest of the Caribbean it is important that we reverse the use of fossil fuel and therefore go more and more to indigenous renewable energy – that will help us in a number of ways. It will reduce in the end the cost of energy which will help to increase our competitiveness in terms of industries and so on.”
That’s a good long range strategy, but what can we do right now? We’ve all heard about renewable energy and other options, but how can small developing countries like Belize with relatively little economic or diplomatic clout contribute to a real solution?
One of the areas discussed was the importance of monitoring the situation, which may not sound as dramatic as immediate action, but is hugely important. We need to identify and understand what is happening, and that’s where countries like Belize can come in. Large coral reefs act like canaries in coal mines – when they start dropping, things are getting bad, and with the very large and very beautiful canary known as the Belize Great Barrier Reef as our front yard, we’re in a position to contribute important data to the global picture.
It was in these sorts of discussions with regional partners that the pieces of the puzzle began clearer and the role smaller countries can play better defined.
This was an intricate, complex gathering with far too much information presented to be even outlined here, but what we will attempt to do is make sources available in the coming days so that interested readers can do their own research and learn more about this very pressing problem.
For right now, we’re happy to report that, once again, Belize is in the forefront of environmental action in the region and by extension, the world, and the fact that we are doing something gives us hope for the future.
Think about it, Cayo hosted this important conference, Chaa Creek is sponsoring 24 young Belizeans at the annual Eco Kids Environmental Summer Camp that began July 20, where for over a week they will learn about environmental sustainability and other Green issues, a GMO Awareness Month earlier this year was successful in raising awareness about genetically modified organisms, and our local and national environmentalists continue to work diligently in a number of areas.
I think every Belizean can feel proud that their country is making a positive impact on what has been described as the greatest challenge of our lifetimes.
Now imagine if every country on Earth was working this conscientiously towards finding environmental solutions and creating a better, more sustainable future. Perhaps amid all the doom and gloom there is hope that our children’s children will inherit a world that is not only liveable, but as wondrously beautiful as the one we’re lucky enough to wake up to every day in Belize.
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”
Maybe Mr Lennon had something there.
We’ll keep you informed…