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Human activities linked to climate change
The climate poses several high-risk security concerns to the Caribbean environment and the world at large. What systems and policies do we have in place to address the inevitable potential consequences of climate change?
These were some of the issues addressed at a recent symposium on Climate Diplomacy: Reducing Risks for Security hosted by the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Department of Behavioural Sciences, St. Augustine Campus in collaboration with the German Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago.
In attendance were Stephan Shluter, German Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago; Joseph Beck, German Ambassador to Jamaica; Gabriella Weber, deputy German Ambassador to the Dominican Republic; Maureen Modicell, High Commissioner to South Africa and the two distinguished presenters, Alexander Carius, co-founder and managing director of adelphi, international consultant and adviser on climate change and Dennis Taenzler head, climate and energy policies at adelphi and expert in climate, energy and international environmental policy.
In her opening remarks, chairperson, Dr. Indira Rampersad, coordinator of the International Relations Programme in the Department of Behavioural Sciences, noted that in the last two decades, climate change has been recognised as a dangerous threat to human security and is caused in large part by human activity.
She also underscored the crucial role for international negotiations and diplomacy among state and non-state actors, leaders, politicians, policymakers, diplomats, NGOs, academics and civil society in general, to alleviate the problem, especially for small island developing states like Trinidad and Tobago.
Taenzler, detailed the threats associated with climate change noting its capacity to exacerbate interstate conflict and intensify insecurity and instability in the international system. He identified water scarcity, food security, natural disasters and immigration as major challenges posed by climate change.
Moreover, he pinpointed the dangers to small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean, highlighting rising sea levels, coastal erosion, salt water intrusion, flooding and the threat to the fishing industry upon which many of these islands depend. All of these can stretch the existing social and economic capacities of these vulnerable states leading to increased poverty and hardships.
Carius outlined five areas of climate diplomacy. These include adaptation to climate change, transboundary environmental cooperation, early warning systems and vulnerability assessments, and sustainable energy policies and green economy. He said that while the United Nations and European Union are pursuing measures to treat with the issue, these need to be more robust.
Moreover, foreign ministers claim climate change is not part of their policy agendas. In her closing remarks, Dr. Rampersad noted that the issue has not yet surfaced in the US presidential debate. While energy security has emerged as potent team for both President Obama and opponent, Mitt Romney, it is treated in complete isolation to the climate change dilemma.
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