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New UWI climate change think-tank hailed as ‘critical’

by Randy Bennett
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The University of the West Indies’ Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development (GICSRD) has been hailed as a “critical institution” in the region’s fight against climate change.

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chairman of CARICOM, Gaston Browne, on Thursday welcomed the GICSRD at its virtual launch, saying it would provide much-needed climate research and data for the region.

He maintained there was sufficient evidence that weather systems were worsening as islands in the Caribbean had been significantly affected.

Browne said: “The GICSRD is a critical institution that will fill the climate educational gap as we seek to transform the region into a climate resilient zone…Now we’re seeing more frequent and more ferocious hurricanes and as a consequence we have to continue to prioritize our adaptation to climate events.

“The Caribbean was hit by over 110 storms between 1980 and 2016, inflicting nearly 95 per cent of our damage from weather disasters. Hurricanes are already more frequent and ferocious since 2000, therefore, we must accelerate adaptation and mitigation measures.”

The Antigua leader said the GICSRD was welcomed as there was a notable absence of such institutions in the region.

He said he was encouraged that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the UWI was looking to international climate finance to scale up action within the Caribbean.

“Our region has a major capacity problem,” he told the launch. “With only five national and regional institutions that are accredited to the Green Climate Fund with only four approved projects combined. Of the approved climate finance so far only 40 per cent has been dispersed in the Caribbean on average. This simple statistic highlights our project implementation challenges and this is not good enough. I’m sure we can and we must do better.

“The GICSRD will assist us to fuel climate innovation and to build capacity to close the developmental gaps. Small islands have well known capacity challenges and we are not receiving our fair share of global finance. We must therefore be strategic and work together regionally to secure more international projects.”

UWI Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles described the research centre’s creation as a “historic moment”.

He said the GICSRD was the culmination of decades of sound scientific research, quality training and public advocacy by the UWI.

“For many decades my colleagues at the UWI have been whistleblowers on the theme of climate change,” said Sir Hilary. “For many decades they pioneered work while academically recognized and respected, the voice that emerged from this research was largely marginalized in the corridors of global political power.

“What we have seen in recent times however, has been the recognition that the UWI has provided a pivotal role in shaping global opinion and providing the evidentiary basis for climate change policy and advocacy.”

Sir Hilary said the region’s existence was now being threatened by climate change.

Executive Director of GICSRD, Professor John Goddard, maintained that the Caribbean was on the frontline of a climate crisis.

He said the GICSRD would serve as a research and knowledge management hub that would consolidate UWI’s research and teaching across its five campuses.

Professor Goddard said among its many objectives the institute would collaborate with local, regional and national partners as well as work towards improving the scientific understanding of the changing climate system and its local and regional impact on communities and economies. (RB)

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