Climate change could be costly for the Caribbean

The Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has warned that climate change could cause losses of about 1 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for regional countries between 2010 and 2100.

ECLAC says in report, released in Cancun, Mexico, on Dec.9, that this could take place unless a global consensus is reached on mitigation actions.

The study, Economics of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean: Summary 2010, considers global warming to be a determining factor in the characteristics of and options for this century’s regional economic development.

It was presented as part of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (known as COP 16) currently taking place in Cancun.

The report provides supplementary socio-economic analysis of the implications of climate change, based on national and sectoral studies being carried out in the region. The initial version was presented by ECLAC at the previous World Conference (COP 15), held in Copenhagen in 2009.

The 2010 report supplements the previous version and states that, in the region’s temperate countries, climate change may cause losses that represent around 1 percent of annual GDP between 2010 and 2100 in the scenario of highest emissions It said the cost would be higher in Andean, Central American and Caribbean countries.

The 1 percent of GDP is higher than the average annual figure that the region’s governments spend on research and development (0.63 percent of GDP in 2007), as well as being higher than the budgets of most ministries of the environment, ECLAC says.

In the 2009 version of the report, ECLAC was already warning that global climate change would cost around 137 percent of the 2007 GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean by 2100.

In other words, growth will be restricted unless serious global mitigation measures are introduced and national plans to adapt to and mitigate climate change are implemented, ECL says.

“Spontaneous technological change will not be enough to reduce global concentrations of greenhouse gases,” said Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary.

“What is required is far-reaching reform of national and global markets so that they function well from the point of view of climate change,” she added. “That is to say that they work in favor of a less carbon-intensive economy, in the framework of sustainable development with equality and social inclusion”.

“This requires a succession of large-scale public-private partnerships and the social consensus to back them up”, Bárcena added.

The 2010 report states that, although Latin America and the Caribbean is the second least polluting world region in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the region could suffer significant consequences from climate change in terms of its impact on the population, ecosystems and economic activity.

It says that the region is highly vulnerable to extreme climate events, increases in temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, reduction of the cryosphere (surface of the earth covered by ice), rises in sea level, drought, flooding and hurricanes.

“If the necessary measures are not taken, by the end of the century we can expect major losses in the agricultural sector and in terms of biodiversity, as well as huge pressure on the region’s infrastructure,” the report says.