Saint Lucia's Second National Communication - December 2011
The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities. The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.
Saint Lucia is benefitting from a considerable number of climate change adaptation projects across an array of its identified adaptation priorities, and has made a concerted effort to address climate change through its Climate Change Adaptation Policy and Strategy. The country’s dependence on tourism and vulnerability of its natural biodiversity and coastal resources may help to explain its ability to attract a considerably amount of adaptation funding, especially from projects with a global focus. In the future, adaptation program may need to build upon current efforts related to coastal zone management, agriculture, freshwater supply, and the gender dimensions of climate change impacts. It may also need to focus on areas in which action does not seem to be on-going, such as the impacts of climate change on marine resources, human settlements and human health. More programming could also be directed towards implementation of concrete adaptation measures in the field.
Agriculture and Food Security
Environmental impacts on agriculture ecosystems are likely to occur under climate change scenarios, particularly with respect to reduced precipitation, extreme events and to a lesser extent sea level rise. This is possible as areas of current microclimatic conditions are lost, and large-scale ecosystem shifts occur either in an acute manner such as in the case of extreme weather events, or though more chronic progression as in the case of annually reducing precipitation. The resultant changes in/replacement or loss of habitats due to either damage or destruction caused by climatic factors are likely to lead to loss in the diversity of habitats and species. While it may be difficult to predict the exact shifts in these areas, some extent of displacement or even loss of these areas to agricultural production is envisaged under the different climate scenarios, causing a dislocation of production and decline in availability of agricultural produce, as well as other attendant issues, such as food scarcity and increased cost of food products.
The various threats posed by climate change, particularly in respect of sea level rise and reduced precipitation are expected to further affect the quality of existing lands that are suitable for agriculture. The impacts of the foregoing include decreased crop yields and overall production levels as a result of decreasing acreages under production arising from land renunciation (abandonment). Given that the island‘s economy is still dependent on agricultural for export earnings, to support employment and to ensure food availability, climate change poses a substantial threat to the economy and to the nation‘s food security. The situation is grave when climate change impacts are combined with existing socio-economic and environmental pressures on our agricultural sector.
As the area of most economic activity on Saint Lucia, the coastal sector has been assessed for its vulnerability in the context of agricultural production, water supply, fisheries, tourism and coastal resources. It is expected that there will be impacts of sea level rise, extreme changes in precipitation patterns, storms and increased frequency of El Nino events on the sector. Climate change is likely to have both direct and indirect and largely negative effects on tourism while adding to stresses such as pollution and further compromise the long-term viability of coastal (and near-shore) ecosystems. Significant damage to fish landing sites, fish markets, fishermen‘s locker rooms, and other onshore facilities, could result from any increase in the frequency of intensity of extreme events such as floods, tropical storms and storm surges and while shipping is said to be one of the least affected sectors by climatic change, there is nonetheless need to factor in new/emerging issues such as coastal flooding and restricted access to ports, shifting zones of storminess and potentially stronger hurricanes. It is also suggested that coastal vulnerabilities will increase in light of the realisation of the National Vision Plan.
Infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly to storm and high rainfall events. This is further exacerbated by Saint Lucia‘s topography and the location of some of the island‘s most critical infrastructure along the coast line. Impacts would include (but not be limited to) greater inundation/erosion/ threat/loss of low-lying/coastal development and communities; loss of recreational value and carrying capacity of beaches; poor operational performance of inundated municipal and household septic systems, contaminating drainage and water supplies; reduced capacity/ performance of drainage infrastructure and bridges, increasing risk of flooding in low-lying coastal areas; interruptions in local, regional and international communication resulting from damage to and/or destruction of critical infrastructure; loss of access (temporary/permanent) to, damage or destruction of, critical infrastructure such as coastal roads and bridges, disruptive to several types of economic, social and cultural activities.
Human Settlements and Population Distribution
Since the study area for the assessment is the entire island system, for the purposes of comparison and other forms of analysis, the Human Settlements Sector Team adopted the quadrant systems approach of the Saint Lucia National Vision Plan. In support of the general approach outlined above, the team: focused on the use of local expertise; engaged in comprehensive research to ensure the production of information that is current, relevant and accurate; consulted within and across sectors; and, sought opportunities for integration in recognition of the fact that climate change is cross-cutting, requiring interdependence amongst sectors and the need for one voice to advance the issues.
Given the broad nature of the terms of reference for the assessment, the Human Settlement Sector Team recognized the need to first define the parameters of the Human Settlements Sector, identify areas of overlap with other sectors and consult with the relevant team leaders to determine and discuss the division of labour and focus for each sector team. The approach recognized that Climate Change is inherently a multi-sectoral issue and as such, the Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment required unreserved collaboration between Sector Teams. The analysis considered existing frameworks / initiatives to address current vulnerability; assessment of future vulnerability; and, proposed adaptations. The team also considered the impact on the main livelihood sectors, namely, agriculture, tourism and the coastal sector.
The impacts on the human settlements sector mirror those seen for the agriculture, coastal, critical infrastructure and tourism sectors as a result of the linkages between and overlap among them.
Forest and Marine Biodiversity
Biological diversity (biodiversity) has been considered in terms of its two main components in Saint Lucia‘s naturally occurring ecosystems – forest and marine.
Saint Lucia has a relatively large and well managed forest cover. Of a total area of 61,500 ha, the island has a forest cover of 48,133.53 ha, of which 9,186 ha is the protected forest reserve and 14,170 ha is private forests. In addition to serving as a significant sink for greenhouse gases, the forest reserve is the primary source for potable water and a source of livelihood for guides and operators who conduct guided tours along the forest trails. However, the forest is under pressure from demands for housing, tourism and agricultural lands which, if not controlled, will reduce the country‘s resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly in the water sector.
Forest Biodiversity can be easily impact on negatively by unusual temperature variations, droughts, floods, wind damage and landslides associated with extreme weather events. Historical effects of climate variations substantiate this potential climate change impacts. The impacts are expected to be many and varied and in addition to impacts on the flora, will also impact on the fauna which rely on the health and extent of the forest for their survival. These impacts may include drought impact on forest ecosystems and habitats; loss of riparian habitats and impacts on dependent habitat species; significantly reduced stream flow and this specialized habitat would be lost as more drought-resistant species would invade former riparian areas and alteration in the range of species. Additionally, increased intensity of rainfall events leads to increase in land slippage, high erosion, increased sedimentation loads in watersheds, while reduced annual rainfall may lead to ecosystem shifts and increased vulnerability of endangered species as well as reduced water flow in watersheds. Numerous openings in the landscape may cause the forest to be less resistant to strong winds and therefore less resilient to natural disasters. In instances like this, flooding occurs in the major valleys and along the coastal areas when landslides carry tons of soil and debris, thereby affecting river channels and consequently the normal flow of these watercourses. At the same time, with the openings in landscape, wildlife can become exposed to the strong winds, storm surges and geographic displacement of individuals
Saint Lucia also has a rich marine ecosystem, which is beginning to show signs of stress. A total of approximately 250 reef fish species and 50 coral species have been identified for the island. Marine ecosystems include coral reefs, mangals and sea grass beds. Saint Lucia's marine biological resources are part of its capital for development. In addition, the health of the country's fisheries, as well as its tourism sector, is tied to the health of its marine environment whose vulnerability is likely to be exacerbated by the anticipated effects of climate change and, as a consequence, to have a significant impact on the natural, social and economic environment of the country.
Whereas increased storm events are predicted to cause physical damage to coral systems and impact negatively on nursery habitats, there will also be direct biological impacts on marine biodiversity. These include destruction of unique coastal and marine habitats (increase in coral bleaching events, could cause the destruction of major reef tracts and mangroves); increased intensity of rainfall events leads to increase in sedimentation on near-shore coral reefs; reduced reproductive frequency of endangered turtles; photosynthetic groups utilize higher CO2 availability to increase their biomass; reduced profitability of fisheries; inundation of wetlands, beach erosion, intensified flooding, and increased salinity of rivers, bays and near-shore waters; alteration in larval distribution of pelagic fish species. Indirect impacts such as reduction in quantum and variety of catch, and related economic impacts are also predicted; particularly as they relate to habitats impacted by the realisation of the national vision plan.
The tourism sector team‘s analysis reflected an examination of impacts and vulnerabilities for existing key tourism hotspots which are identified by the intensity of tourism development and popularity of a tourism product/attraction. The northern region was selected because of the concentration of accommodation plant along the coast line and within the area and it represents a cross section of the tourism product. The assessment has adopted an approach consistent with that which was adopted in the Belize Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (2007), which recognizes that sources of vulnerability can be either supply or demand -based. Supply-based sources focus on the natural resources for tourism (marine and coastal ecosystems, land, and forests) and infrastructure (hotels, natural and man-made attractions, transportation food and beverage, water). Demand-based sources focus largely on visitors‘ perception. Such vulnerabilities include visitors‘ perception of the quality of the natural resources; weather in the host countries and countries of origin; perceptions about health and safety conditions. The team recognized the importance of these two sources and examined the associated vulnerabilities.
Adaptation interventions that seek to reduce vulnerability and increase capacity of communities and institutions to deal with climate change were explored. Measures, however, mainly addressed supply-side vulnerabilities because they are major concerns for the sector, particularly in the short term. Observed changes did not only form the basis of adaptation but potential future changes in climate were considered to ensure sustainable interventions. Temporary solutions were recommended to address climate- change driven impacts while longer term measures were be crafted in response to future climate threats.
Supply side impacts
Saint Lucia‘s tourism industry being environmentally dependent could become more vulnerable with climate change. Like many small island development states, the island is particularly vulnerable because of restricted land area. This is further compounded by the high concentration of tourist population in certain areas and the intensity of tourism activities on coastal areas. Sea-level rise therefore represents the most significant implication for climate change. Observed and potential impacts of climate change indicate an increase in the incidences of drought. Increased droughts exert additional pressure on water demand to service large scale resort particularly those water-intensive facilities and amenities such as golf courses and spas. Changes in rainfall patterns will also exacerbate flooding and slippage and erosion of soil where there are heritage attractions in such as trails and tours, which are so heavily supported by the cruise sector. As a key element of Saint Lucia‘s tourism product, natural assets could also experience greater vulnerability to environmental degradation.
Storm surges are known to cause destruction to tourism plant and their frequency can increase vulnerability of tourism plant and infrastructure to greater damage. Hotel and food and beverage plants would not be the only ones susceptible to such destruction but also marine infrastructure (berthing facilities, piers, and airports). Closure of air and sea ports would be inevitable, adversely affecting arrivals to the destination. Loss of other major components of the tourism sector can result from increased storm surges and temperatures, and reduction in water quality.
Coral reefs, a critical element of the dive tourism product, have been at risk from changes in the climate patterns. As far back as 2004, they were under tremendous threat from rising sea surface temperatures, which caused coral bleaching and reduced storm surge protection, resulting in greater economic losses from marine-based tourism activities.
Without further adaptation the tourism sector could be rated as highly vulnerable to the impacts of floods, heat-waves, storms and extreme rainfalls. Increasing temperatures are therefore expected, which will increase dependency on energy intensive technologies. Current vulnerability is also high for the accommodation sector due to increasing risk from sea level rise and high potential for structural damage particularly those in coastal areas. Increased operating and capital costs will become a predominant feature of hotel and marine-based operations (insurance, auxiliary utility costs, beach replenishment and refurbishments). The risk of droughts has increased, resulting in moderate to high vulnerability since there are few adaptation measures implemented.
Demand side impacts
The seasonality effects of the tourism industry are driven by climate variables, thereby affecting demand for the tourism product. Given the inextricable link between the environment and the destination‘s product, the demand for Saint Lucia‘s tourism product could therefore be easily affected. According to a report by the World Tourism Organization, the Caribbean, whose principal markets include North America, is at serious risk of adverse effects on demand for travel from this region. Saint Lucia‘s largest source market is from this region which, like other major markets move away from the
cold and grey winter climate moving to the warmth, sunshine and coastal pursuits.‖ Tourists will avoid this destination or shift the timing of their travel to avoid unfavorable climate conditions4 .
Strong seasonality can be exacerbated by climate change as the high tourist season coincides with low water regimes in dry season, aggravating water management and environmental issues. The tourism sector‘s vulnerability to climate change now increases as impacts of climate change (damage to coastal beaches, damage infrastructure, and increased temperatures) manifest. Increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, sea level rise and accelerated beach erosion, degradation of coral reefs, (including bleaching) and the loss of cultural heritage through inundation and flooding are likely to reduce the attractiveness of small island states5. Not only would the change in climate be a deterrent for visitors, but also the resultant decline in quality of the environmental features that often defines the tourism product and lures them to the island.
Additionally, actions to address climate change such as environmental taxes on fuels used in air transportation could adversely affect the demand for travel to Saint Lucia. Already, such policies and their applicability for maritime transportation have been at the centre of the international climate change fora and will undoubtedly undermine the resiliency of our tourism sector.
Financial Services Sector
The role of the financial services sector in supporting all sectors during the development stage as well as the post–disaster recovery and reconstruction phases underscores both its importance and its vulnerability. These vulnerabilities relate to possible over-exposure to risks based on the IPCC predictions. The absence of enforced codes and regulations requiring construction design and practices to adequately factor in these considerations serve to exacerbate the possible impacts, which include risk reduction by adherence to nationally approved setbacks when approving loans and insuring properties and ensuring that these are in conformity with them.
Critical infrastructure and hotel development located near shores will come under direct threat as a result of sea level rise. The sector may increase premiums which will be passed on to consumers. This will be a direct cost impact to the various sectors. As clients become more aware of the impacts of climate change and they attempt to reduce their vulnerability the Financial Services Sector will see increased requests for insurance coverage and bank loans to address adaptation concerns; this will require a broadening of portfolio to cater to new needs of clientele. As a result of government‘s inclination to foster climate resilience at a national level Financial Services Sector will be required to shift their portfolios to cater to those need that this will create. Damage to critical infrastructure, housing and beachfront property can result in increased insurance claims. There is likely to be an adverse impact on farmers. Because of the direct threat which livestock and crops will come under as a result of increased intensity and frequency of hurricanes and droughts, a government response will be required to help the sector in adapting. The Financial Services Sector will therefore most likely be required to scale up financing and over coverage for agriculture infrastructure such as greenhouses to protect crops etc. Insurances will likely see increased payouts to clients; an increase in the number of medical claims filed and a possible increase in the number of clients as people seek redress with increasing health costs
In order to fully assess the impacts of climate change on health, the data was collected and analyzed with respect to: climate related events in Saint Lucia; existing and proposed health facilities; population per health region; the number and type of food borne diseases within the past six years; the number and type of vector borne diseases within the past five years; meteorological data; mortality and morbidity cases related to natural disasters; and, existing legislation which can support abatement of climate change effects. In addition, expert judgment also facilitated the process, information was gathered on previous studies conducted in Saint Lucia, the Caribbean region and internationally. This information was then collated and analyzed to determine current and projected vulnerability from which, proposed adaptations were recommended to minimize the impacts on vulnerable areas. Capacity issues and constraints were also identified and appropriate recommendations were made.
Climate change can have both positive and negative impacts, directly and indirectly on the health sector. An example of how increases in temperature can possibly impact health includes direct physical impacts such as heat exhaustion, are likely to increase, whilst direct physical impacts from cold temperatures such as the incidence of influenza may decrease. Impacts on food production and mosquito breeding patterns are highly likely, but the extent and direction of such impacts is unclear at the moment. Other climatic variables, such as changes in rainfall and extreme weather events, will play a role, as will non-climatic variables such as land cover changes, urbanization and salinity. In turn, the potential health impacts of these factors will also depend on a wide range of other determinants.
The impacts of climate change would affect the health of human populations via diverse pathways. These would vary in their complexity, scale and directness. The timing of the various impacts would also differ – some would occur soon; others would be deferred. There would be both positive and negative impacts, although expert scientific reviews predict that the latter would clearly predominate. This mainly negative impact reflects the fact that climatic change would alter many natural ecological and physical systems that are integral to earth‘s life-support systems.
The more direct impacts on health include those caused by changes in exposure to weather extremes (heat waves) those due to increases in other extreme weather events (floods, cyclones, storm-surges, droughts), and those due to a rise in production of certain air pollutants and aeroallergens (spores and moulds). In some countries, decreases in winter mortality due to milder winters may compensate for increases in summer mortality due to the increased frequency of heat waves. However, the extent of future change in the frequency, intensity and location of extreme weather events due to climate change remains uncertain.
Climate change will also affect human health via less direct mechanisms. These would include changes in the pattern of transmission of many infectious diseases – especially waterborne, food-borne, vector-borne diseases and food productivity. In the longer term, and with considerable variation between populations because of geography and vulnerability, the indirect impacts may well have greater magnitude than the more direct impacts.
Various integrated modelling studies have forecasted that an increase in ambient temperature would cause, worldwide, net increases in the geographic distribution of particular vector organisms — such as dengue-transmitting mosquitoes — although some localized decreases may also occur. Further, temperature- related changes in the life-cycle dynamics of both the vector species and the pathogenic organisms (flukes, protozoa, bacteria and viruses) would increase the potential transmission of many vector-borne diseases such as malaria (mosquito), dengue fever (mosquito) and leishmaniasis (sand-fly) – although schistosomiasis (water-snail) may undergo a net decrease in response to climate change.
Hazard analysis and experience have confirmed that Saint Lucia is at risk from numerous hazards, both natural and technological. With the climate studies group projecting a warming up of 1.2oC by the 2030s, 2.1oC by the 2060s and 3.6oC by the end of the century, one can expect sea level rise, increase in the number of storms as well as an increase in the intensity of the storms. Climate related hazards were categorised as shown below:
Source: Saint Lucia's Second National Communication (December 2011)
Key Results and Outputs
- Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
- Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
- Measures contributing to addressing climate change
- Research and systematic observation
- Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
- Education, training and public awareness
Reports and Publications
Monitoring and Evaluation
In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.
Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.
The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.
Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.