Sunday, February 27, 2011

Climate change just one worry in struggling Haiti

Robert Shaw in AlertNet: A month before a massive earthquake derailed pretty much everything in Haiti, the government set up a climate change division within its environment ministry, building on a “National Adaptation Plan of Action” (NAPA) the government announced in 2006. But in the aftermath of the devastation, climate change has been all but forgotten in Haiti as the country struggles to deal with pressing rebuilding priorities.

“We have seen very little concrete action in terms of climate change,” admits Jean Pierre Moise, Haiti’s climate chief. Still, promises by rich nations to provide $100 billion a year in funding by 2020 to help vulnerable countries deal with climate change may present opportunities for Haiti to address its problems and vulnerabilities, particularly if it can overcome longstanding political paralysis, experts say.

“Over the last number of years it is true that there has been a void of leadership in Haiti, and with no budget, no authority and no capacity, very little can be achieved,” said Ross Gartley, a disaster risk specialist at the World Bank. But Haiti now has a “unique opportunity to position itself to get big financing further down the line … and to build solid capacity,” he said.

Many Haitians live in urban areas that are vulnerable to landslides and floods, a point not lost on the Ministry of the Environment. About a year before the devastating January 2010 earthquake, which claimed more than 50,000 lives, the ministry appointed 26 Haitian artists, actors, comedians and journalists as environment and disaster risk reduction ambassadors.

Haitian mayors are also beginning to understand the need to act on climate concerns, international experts say. "We have already begun work with the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean-Yves Jason, to bring together local leaders from around the country and the world in raising political commitment to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” said Ricardo Mena, head of the Americas office of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction…

An aerial view of the UN headquarters in Haiti shows the devastation caused by an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince Haiti just before 5 pm, January 12, 2010. Shot by UN Photo/Logan Abassi UNDP Global, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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