OECS Secretariat, Castries, Saint Lucia April 22nd, 2009: The sustainability of our economies and the quality of life of the peoples of Small Islands like the OECS will in large part be shaped by the decisions we take today to prepare for the impacts of global warming. Countries all over the world are already experiencing changes to physical environments, biological processes and weather systems, necessitating not only reactive responses, but more importantly the development of a strategic framework that would enable a planned preemptive programme to address future impacts of climate change. It is therefore important for OECS governments to prepare today for the changes that are predicted; otherwise the impacts of unsuitable decisions could severely hurt the long term viability of the fragile economies of these Member States.
One climate change expert points out that ‘the example of most islands requesting external assistance in crisis times is testimony to the inability of governments to respond to their own needs, adding further, that “if climate change continues unchecked, money that could be used for poverty alleviation and other social services, or for economic development, will instead be diverted to disaster recovery” or other reactive response efforts.
The global economic down turn and the impacts on local economies will no doubt lower the priority weighting of climate change. Yet, for the economies of the OECS countries to survive, actions must be initiated today to address alternative energy options and adaptive responses to the impacts of climate change within a framework of the equitable distribution of land resources.
The ability of OECS Governments to provide for its people against those odds must be informed by the balanced distribution of land. Land resources, or according to the economist – natural capital – is the underpinning of growth of all our economies. The skewed allocation of land in favour of one sector, such as tourism, is detrimental to the ability of other sectors to cater to the needs of a population twenty five years from now.
The reality is that climate change may induce changes in reproductive patterns in plants and animals affecting our ability to feed ourselves with implications for our food security; may create an environment for disease vectors putting more pressure on our health services; will put coastal communities at greater risk from flooding and storm surge, with implications for housing, disaster preparedness and emergency response; will affect livelihoods dependent on natural resources when these are either degraded or lost altogether, with implications for social services; all these and more will challenge the ability of sectors and governments to address these issues. Our only solution today is to allocate our land resources in a manner that ensures that all sectors can adequately provide for population needs into the future. There will be no simple solutions, only intelligent choices as our only hope for survival rest in how we relate to our environment and how we adjust our practices to ensure sustainability.
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