UNITED NATIONS, CMC – The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has described Latin America and the Caribbean as “a laboratory for climate action,” as world leaders gather in Madrid, Spain for the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25).
“From hurricanes pounding islands to drought destroying crops across Central America, and erratic rain patterns affecting the livelihoods of indigenous communities living on Andean slopes, climate-related challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean are as diverse as are the region’s landscapes,” said the UN agency in a statement.
“Climate change is exacerbating many of these, with higher temperatures, delayed rainy seasons, rainfall irregularity, and increasingly frequent and extreme weather events,” it added.
But it is not just about problems, according to Kathryn Milliken, WFP’s climate change advisor.
“The Latin American and Caribbean region offers exciting opportunities to test and scale up a wide range of solutions to address climate-related issues,” she said.
“With many countries having middle-income status and greater public-private capacities than in most of the places where we work, this region can be a laboratory for a new way for WFP and partners to work.”
WFP said one such way is promoting the integration of climate-risk financing into governments’ social-protection systems.
“Climate-risk finance tools are critical in ensuring that when a climatic event is either forecast or triggered by reliable weather information, vulnerable people can receive rapid support to withstand or recover from the shock,” it said.
In the Caribbean, Milliken said recent events, including Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, which hovered over parts of Grand Bahama for two days, “have shown how climate change is increasing the threats to the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people.
“Here, making national social-protection mechanisms more shock-responsive and adaptive can help get emergency assistance to large populations more quickly, reducing the impact of disasters and protecting against loss to development gains,” she said.
WFP said its strategy to achieve this includes advocating with the governments of Caribbean small island states to adopt a mix of risk financing that respond to the frequency and magnitude of climate-related disasters and other risks.
It also involves testing how certain risk-finance tools can be connected to national social-protection schemes, “so that rapid response funds can be provided to vulnerable people in the event of a disaster,” WFP said.
Working with communities and authorities at the national and local level, WFP said it has been strengthening adaptive capacities to this changing climate.
It said one simple measure has seen more than 19,000 people reached through a radio awareness campaign on climate change and the risks it entails.
WFP said community projects have improved people’s access to drinking and irrigation water, drought-resistant seeds and climate-smart agricultural practices.
It said a unique addition is the training and awareness of these communities on gender issues to promote spaces of respect and equity.
“The climate emergency is here, and vulnerable people in Latin American and the Caribbean are feeling the brunt of the impacts of climate variability and change,” Milliken said. “WFP is looking to address the urgency in this region, finding solutions that will get support to these populations at the scale needed.
“This is a joint effort involving important partnerships with governments, the private sector, researchers and civil society,” she added. “Together we hope to systematise these experiences, so larger numbers of people can benefit from them, and serve as a model for other countries and regions.”