Photo: Bishwa Pandey/World Bank
Like other countries in the Eastern Caribbean region, Belize is highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as coastal and inland flooding, high winds, fire, and drought, all of which are being exacerbated by climate change. And like its neighbors, Belize is doing something about it. Following the lead of other Caribbean countries involved in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), Belize is initiating a comprehensive climate resilience investment plan that spans across sectors to mainstream climate change in its national development planning and action.
Drive on any of Belize’s four main highways and you will quickly understand how tough it is to maintain this main network connecting Belmopan and Belize City, the two key economic zones. Frequent floods impede commuting and the transportation of goods and can cut off the population for several days. It’s only going to get worse, as recent studies indicate that Belize will undergo a warming and drying trend and is expected to endure even more frequent and intense rainfalls. Seventy percent of its people live in low-lying areas prone to recurrent flooding, so reducing vulnerability to natural disasters is at the core of Belize’s development challenge.
It is a lot for one nation to face alone. That is why the government of Belize is reaching out to the international community for support and guidance on setting a path toward long-term solutions to protect its population and maintain economic prosperity. When the government of Belize approached the World Bank to support them on improving climate resilience, I was excited to see how we could apply lessons learned from other Eastern Caribbean countries involved in the PPCR to help Belize develop its own investment plan in support of a national climate-resilient development path.
The PPCR, a program of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), works by providing a framework and funding to its 18 designated pilot countries and two regional programs to develop and implement strategic programs for climate resilience, which pilot innovative solutions to each nation’s (and the Caribbean and Pacific regions’) most pressing climate-related risks. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Grenada, as well as Haiti and Jamaica, are part of the PPCR, and I have seen firsthand the transformative effect it is having on inter-ministerial coordination, stakeholder communication, and project planning. While Belize is not part of the CIF, it has much to gain from the PPCR methodology, which has been road tested and fine-tuned by the PPCR pilot countries.
Using the PPCR model, the government of Belize and the World Bank embarked on an extensive project identification and prioritization process. This involved extensive consultations with stakeholders from the government, private sector, civil society, and community groups to discuss challenges and solutions to climate risk across all sectors nationwide. Based on the inputs from these consultations, Belize is in a position to develop a quantitative risk baseline to identify areas most vulnerable to natural hazards, as well as to create a participatory evaluation process to prioritize projects using a combination of physical, social, economic, and environmental criteria. No small task, and it has been made possible with financial support from the European Union, in the framework of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific - European Union Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program, managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
Last month, representatives from the government of Belize were invited to the seventh meeting of the PPCR pilot countries in Washington, D.C. to share their progress in developing their national climate resilience investment plan. In turn, they heard from pilot country representatives who have already gone through the PPCR process on how to improve their plan. The feedback included suggestions on how to set up an inter-ministerial committee to discuss jointly the impacts of climate variability and change, ideas on involving the private sector from the initial stage, and the need for strong communications to manage expectations. The learning opportunity was embraced fully by all.
According to Marion Cayetano from Belize, "We have learned lessons from being here, and we continue to learn and look for lessons to take back home to improve our investment plan."
Planners are already back at work in Belize incorporating PPCR feedback into their plan, which they aim to present at the next PPCR Sub-Committee meeting in November 2013 with the expectation of an endorsement. As Belize prepares for these next steps, I realize that economic growth is no longer business as usual. We need to work together on a global front to find viable solutions and discover new ways to measure results that improve climate resilience. Following the PPCR example, and with the support of the World Bank, I know that Belize will be better prepared to mitigate the risk of climate-induced disasters and long-term impacts.