At least six Caribbean islands – Haiti, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Jamaica, Martinique and Saint Lucia are ranked in the top 40 countries experiencing extreme weather impacts by the 2009 Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index.

In a press conference at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Germanwatch explained that its 2009 Global Risk Index analyses how severely countries have been affected by weather-related loss events such as hurricanes and floods.

Out of an analysis on almost 150 countries, the six Caribbean Islands were ranked as follows:
Dominican Republic – 12th
Haiti – 16th
Martinique – 24th
Dominica – 25th
Saint Lucia – 27th
Jamaica  – 34th

According to Germanwatch, the Climate Risk Index 2009 is based on figures from 2007 and also an analysis of the worldwide data collection on losses caused by weather events from 1998 – 2007.  Germanwatch is an independent non-government organization that focuses on international issues such as trade, environment and the relationship between developed and developing countries.

“This ranking represents the most affected countries. Each country’s index score has been derived from a country’s average ranking in all four analyses, according to the following weighting: death toll ¼, deaths per inhabitants ¼, absolute loss 1/6 and losses per Gross Domestic Product 2/6,” Germanwatch said in a document circulated at the press conference.

“The current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals the highly dangerous consequences of climate change. Therefore, an analysis of already observable changes in climate conditions in different regions indicates which countries are particularly endangered,” Germanwatch said.

The impact of climate change on small island developing states such as the Caribbean and the urgent need for this to be addressed has been an ongoing debate at the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting held each year by the UNFCCC.

The 2008 COP being held in Poland draws about 9000 participants globally to discuss a replacement mechanism for the Kyoto Protocol which ends in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community to reduce their green house gas emissions.

According to climate modeler, Stefan Rahmstorff, Caribbean countries needed to push industrialized countries to address their emissions as the small islands would face the effects of inaction.

“Fundamentally, small countries which don’t contribute to the problem should press those developed countries to help them with their adaptation measures. Those causing the emissions should be the ones that help to deal with issues,” he said shortly after presenting a paper on rising sea levels recorded since 2007 and the possible climate implications.

“I think the Caribbean region is facing a double impact from Global Warming because number one the sea level is rising which increases the risk of storm surges. Number two we have seen the increase in the strength of hurricanes,” said Rahmstorff, whose work focuses on the role of ocean currents in climate change.

“In 2008… we have seen a number of new records and these two things multiply each other… so I think the Caribbean is one of the hotspots suffering from Climate change,” he said.

At the same time, since the start of the conference on Monday, December 1, Caribbean islands have been pushing to have their issues addressed. They have been speaking through key representatives such as:

-Antigua, which heads the 143 nation G-77 and China group discussions
– Grenada which leads the 43 states of the  Alliance of Small Islands Developing States
– Jamaica , which has representatives on the Clean Development Mechanism and Adaptation Fund Boards respectively.

Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, Panos

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