Chargé d’Affaires at the EU Delegation in Guyana, Layla El Khadraoui, told the participatory regional workshop for the development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Biodiversity Strategy that Europe, which has been a “reliable friend” to the region is hoping “that the exchanges throughout this workshop will guide the discussion towards a concise Regional Biodiversity Strategy for the next five years.”
Describing the EU as “the world’s largest contributor” to cooperation for development and climate financing, she said it increasingly integrates climate change into its broader development strategy.
The diplomat said much work she noted has been done with the UN Environment “to build a strong regional approach to the conservation and management of marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the Caribbean, focusing initially on Cuba, Haiti and Dominican Republic” with a budget of Euro 3.5 million.
She said with an additional budget of Euro 40 million, the EU will also be providing support to 12 of its ‘overseas territories’ through a regional programme focusing on resilience, sustainable energy and marine biodiversity.
She described climate change as “burning priority” of the EU for which it is using 20 per cent of the funds from the contributors by 2020 for projects and programmes related to climate change and disaster risk reduction.
El Khadraoui said those financing priorities are with the knowledge that the Caribbean Sea region is particularly sensitive to natural and climate related disasters.
“Each year hurricanes are a risk for many of the islands, and they are expected to become more intense in the future because of climate change.
“Various Caribbean countries are fringed by mangroves, sea grass meadows and coral reefs, all of which form an interrelated ecosystem that is not only important to the economic and social well-being of the islands and countries, but they are key elements for adapting to the countries’ increasing vulnerability to these more intense natural events associated with climate change,” she said.
She noted for examples that the mangroves, sea grass meadows and coral reefs not only provide well-documented protection against strong waves and storm surges during tropical storms and potable groundwater supplies, but they provide food, shelter, habitat, important nursery grounds and reproductive areas for many species.
“Mangroves and sea grasses also capture significant volumes of CO2 released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels,’ she said, while underscoring the critical importance of proper management of biodiversity.
“Most tourists appreciate the beauty of landscapes and seascapes like healthy coral reefs, beautiful beaches and other ecosystems that provide a broad range of essential services that would be either expensive, or impossible to restore or replace once they are lost.”
Therefore, she added, “Investing in protecting and building the resilience of nature´s free services on the land and in the sea is a necessity for the well-being of the islands’ and countries’ future generations,” El Khadraoui told delegates.
Meanwhile, the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat says it is resolved to present to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) by year’s end, a CARICOM Biodiversity Strategy (CBS) that will guide the protection and sustainable use the Community’s natural resources.
Assistant Secretary-General of the Directorate of Human and Social Development, Dr Douglas Slater, said this effort is collective and timely to accelerate progress in achieving regional commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).
The CBS is an output under the Caribbean Hub sub-component of Phase II of the Programme for Capacity-Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The process has been funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund and has received implementation support from UN Environment, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), CBD Secretariat.
The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) is aiding the development of the CBS for the CARICOM Secretariat and is also facilitating the workshop here.
Dr Slater noted that biodiversity and the regional economy are “deeply interconnected.”
He said the natural ecosystems of the region provide the people of the region with essential goods and services such as food and nutrition, medicine, recreation, fuel, storm protection, and climate resilience.
He said for those reasons, it is critical to “pause and take stock.”
The CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with UN Environment, has therefore coordinated the preparation of a progress report titled State of Biodiversity in the Caribbean – A review of the progress towards the Aichi biodiversity targets which will be released shortly.
Dr Slater said CBS will allow COTED to advice on the post-2020 biodiversity priorities for the Region and establish linkage to the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) agenda as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. (CMC)