Threatened by climate change, frequent hurricanes, and plastic pollution, the Caribbean region is in need of protection. The UN Secretary-General recently addressed this need at the CARICOM Caribbean Community Conference, calling on CARICOM leaders to make the Caribbean the World’s first “Climate Resilient Zone”.
Imagine the Caribbean without its beautiful white-sand beaches, its swaying coconut palms, and its lush, green rainforests. It’s not a thought anyone would care to entertain– and yet it’s a very possible future.
Already, the effects of devastating storms like Hurricanes Irma and Maria have changed the Caribbean landscape. Beaches have moved or have been reduced in size, towns have been destroyed, and people have been displaced from their homes. Although most islands have recovered fully from the brutal 2017 Hurricane season, a few, like Barbuda, are still on the mend.
Plenty of scientists believe that climate change is a big factor in the increasing number of hurricanes. It has also influenced sea levels, the proliferation of stinky sargassum, and changes in ocean temperatures.
Add to that the overwhelming quantity of plastic garbage floating in the Caribbean Sea, and the region has some rather BIG problems to attend to. And, since many Caribbean countries depend on their beaches and rainforests for tourism-driven income, steps must be taken to protect them. Not to mention the fact that the Caribbean is home to millions of people, and not solely a vacation destination.
The First Climate Resilient Zone
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the heads of CARICOM governments in July at the CARICOM Caribbean Community Conference in St. Lucia, urging them to “face the headwinds together.” “The beauty of St. Lucia and the uniqueness of the voice and way of life of each of the Caribbean islands is threatened,” he said. He believes that the recent seasons of severe hurricanes are a sign that that the risk to communities and wildlife will only intensify.
Guterres invited the CARICOM officials to work together to reduce global emissions and “ensure that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.” In September, government and private sector leaders will share concrete plans for cutting greenhouse emissions at the UN Climate Action Summit.
In addition, CARICOM leaders aim to make the Caribbean the world’s first “Climate Resistant Zone”. There are also plans to create a Caribbean Resilience to Recovery Facility. This facility will accelerate resilience efforts by providing funding, technical assistance, and talent.
The Plastic Problem
At the same time, the Caribbean must unite to combat the growing plastic problem. The eight million tons of plastic floating in our oceans is a “grave threat”, the UN Chief added.
A few Caribbean nations have already passed laws prohibiting one-use plastic and styrofoam. But are their efforts “too little, too late?” This is obviously an issue that all Caribbean nations must fight as a united front. “We must face the headwinds together”, said Mr. Guterres. “There is no alternative to cooperation and collaboration”.
You can collaborate, too! Help keep the Caribbean beautiful by following these tips for a Plastic-Free Vacation!
Main image source: US Navy, CC BY-SA
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