Governor calls for establishment of climate change response unit | THE DAILY HERALD

Governor Eugene Holiday speaks at the opening of his seventh Governor’s Symposium in the AUC auditorium. 

CUPECOY–The critical question for a small island developing state such as St. Maarten is “do we have the time needed to effect the required strategic actions to tackle climate change,” Governor Eugene Holiday questioned at the opening of the seventh Governor’s Symposium this morning at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) campus in Cupecoy.

  A strategic climate change governing agenda must be discussed and a climate change response unit is necessary. This unit must be a “separate,” yet interval part of the government’s apparatus. 

  That unit will focus on executing the strategic climate change priorities by engaging government, the private sector and residents to become more awareness and active participants in bring about positive change. 

  Collaboration with regional and international institutions and entities is a must for the climate change response unit, said the Governor. The unit “must be mandated” to make this a priority. 

  Tackling climate change requires tangible actions such as “increased investments in greater energy and infrastructure resilience.” This can materialise by completing the underground utilities project throughout the country and take large steps to clearer, sustainable sources of energy such as solar power. 

  The unit and government must “secure financing from an effective mix of private insurance, national first response funding and regional disaster risk facility.” 

  St. Maarten is “very susceptible” to the global impact of climate change and this is a “major governance challenge” for the country. 

  The country does not significantly contribute to the negative impact on the earth’s climate, it is nevertheless amongst the most vulnerable, the Governor said. 

  “We are already at risk,” said the Governor, pointing to the ongoing drought, the devastation of two unprecedented hurricanes – Irma and Maria in September 2017 and Nature Foundation’s sea level rise prediction that put the country’s capital – Philipsburg, and other low-lying areas under water in the next two decades. 

  The Governor left attendees with this strong statement: St. Maarten is “running out of time” to enact timely climate change measures. But, he is optimistic that “acting now, we can save the day for future generations.” 

  Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin built on the Governor’s call by telling the symposium government is “tackling climate change for several angles” including through striving to attain the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Government is “committed” to working on climate change challenges. 

  Head of the Meteorological Department of St. Maarten Joseph Isaac in the symposium’s “Climate Change, Weather and Environmental Patterns” segment, called for improved weather data collection, perhaps in collaboration with the French side of the island, to effect better planning and mitigation. 

  The formation of a network of weather stations/radars is required “to assist in early warning systems” for natural disaster planning, Isaac pointed out. 

  Sea level monitoring is also vitally critical for St. Maarten to plan for the impact of the planet warming up and the melting of polar ice caps, the head meteorologist said. 

  Rounding off the segment, Climatologist Dr. Cedric van Meerbeeck of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology outlined the science behind climate change to attendees and left behind the very frightening thought that by the end of the 21st century the Caribbean region is heading to a one to five degrees Celsius increase in temperature, at least a one metre rise in sea level and the lengthening of the annual hurricane season. 

Source: The Daily Herald