June 2017

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Cities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, especially sea level rise and flooding. With the growing possibility that the 1.5 degree Celsius target may be surpassed despite the Paris Climate Change Agreement to keep global temperature from rising beyond 1.5 degree Celsius, Caribbean SIDS will need to defend their populations and infrastructure against flooding and more frequent natural hazards.

According to Dr. Michelle Mycoo, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geomatics Engineering and Land Management, the Faculty of Engineering and lead author of the study, A Blue Urban Agenda: Adapting to Climate Change in the Coastal Cities of Caribbean and Pacific Small Island Developing States, an estimated 4.2 million people in SIDS in the Caribbean and in the Pacific are living in areas that are prone to flooding due to rising sea levels. These countries have leveraged nearly US$800 million in green climate funding to support coastal resilience.

“Caribbean and Pacific coastal cities are on the frontlines of climate change,” says Dr. Michael G. Donovan, senior urban specialist at the IDB and co-author of the study. “It is critical to adapt and improve the resilience of cities in coastal zones, especially those SIDS that are experiencing rapid urbanization and are low-lying,” said Dr. Mycoo.

The international community has responded by providing US$55.6 billion in aid and private sector flows to Caribbean and Pacific SIDS over the last 20 years. These programmes have included coastal engineering to protect cities from flooding and coastal erosion, wetland restoration, coral reef conservation and watershed rehabilitation, urban planning and the enforcement of coastal setbacks and flood-resistant building codes.

The study reviewed 50 projects financed by the IDB, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others, and the efforts made by Caribbean and Pacific SIDS to implement adaptation strategies aimed at reducing vulnerability and enhancing sustainability. It shows an increasing emphasis on urban governance and institutional capacity building within city planning agencies.

It includes several policy recommendations for cities, including improving coastal planning, land reclamation, coastal setbacks, enforcement of building codes, climate-proofing infrastructure, mangrove reforestation, and coastal surveying and monitoring.

“Caribbean and Pacific coastal cities are on the front lines of the response to climate change and are pioneering innovative approaches to respond to coastal transformation. Much can be learned from these cities in the way they are adapting to sea level rise, flooding and natural hazards. The Caribbean region has now become a reference for how cities should protect population and urban assets, including port cities and human settlement,” says Dr. Mycoo.

Dr. Michelle Mycoo is a Senior Lecturer & Urban Planner in the Department of Geomatics Engineering & Land Management, UWI, St. Augustine