The Way Forward

 
Climate change is the hot topic of the moment, and not without good reason. The global trend in average surface temperature is upwards and the pace at which it is moving is fast. While there are still uncertainties surrounding future projections and possible impacts, the evidence points to unprecedented change, with potentially dire consequences. According to one calculation, even with the best will in the world, if carbon dioxide emissions were to cease immediately, there would still be an additional 0.6°C global average warming (Hansen et al., 2005).   But whatever the scenario – “best case” or “worst case” – there is a lot at stake for UKOTs because of how their inherent vulnerabilities combine with the effects of global warming to increase their risk to climate-induced hazards.

 

There is no quick fix to the climate change problem and no single policy will set us on the right path. No single country or group of countries acting on their own can solve the problem. This global issue requires a compact between nations of all sizes and at all stages of development. It requires a commitment to joint and individual action by governments, the private sector, communities, civil society, households and individuals.  It requires social, economic, environmental, social and cultural policies and actions. It requires vision and creativity.

 

What does this mean for UKOTs?

 

  • Urgent and immediate action. No country has the luxury of waiting and seeing how the climate change challenge will play out, least of all the UKOTs, where many ecosystems are among those that have already been identified as most vulnerable to climate change and have begun to experience adverse effects of an unstable climate.
  •  Management and protection of ecosystems for well-being and survival. Looking after biodiversity and critical ecosystems helps ensure that they carry out their ecological functions and services as well as increase resistance to climate change. Maintaining the integrity of mangroves and coral reefs, for example, will protect the coastal zone from normal climate impacts and reduce risk in extreme circumstances.
  • Climate-proofing national polices and development. Climate change has to become a long-term strategic issue for UKOTs that is factored into decision and policy-making in all spheres, from water resource management to physical planning to agriculture and industrial development.  This includes taking a multi-sector and integrated approach to decision-making that brings in the views and perspectives of a range of interest groups or stakeholders in society. UKOTs also have to address the development challenges that have led to the accumulation of hazard and human vulnerability to reduce the negative effects of extreme climatic events and natural disasters.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Capping carbon dioxide emissions is essential if we are to avoid global climate chaos. Even though they are small contributors to the global problem, UKOTs can take steps to reduce their impact on the climate system by reducing fossil fuel dependency and increasing energy efficiency.
  • Sharing good practice and lessons learned. UKOTs can learn much from each other by sharing good practice and lessons from experience.