Sint Maarten continues in a Race Against Time: Climate Change
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Sint Maarten continues in a Race Against Time: Climate Change

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY - By Roddy Heyliger) - With the political campaign for decision day January 9, 2020 well underway, 2020 will usher in a new agenda of what we all would like to accomplish in the New Year individually as well as politically. 

From the individual to the political parties currently pounding the campaign trail across the nation, goals, plans, projects and visions are being considered, debated and presented.

Each and every year is a very important one for each one of us as individuals.  Each day, month and year that goes by, we are not able to bring back or take back what has already gone and is considered history.  We can only move forward and continue to do our best in bringing about national change for the benefit of all.

There are many issues impacting our nation today, from the stagnation in the airport reconstruction and development project, to the lack of public housing, the economy, environmental neglect, climate change and much more.

Climate change presents a threat to our very existence as a nation.  Climate change is happening!  We have had the experience of severe weather – Hurricane Irma.  The world is heating up and global temperatures are expected to rise further if trends continue bringing about wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts.

The 2019 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference known as COP25 got underway earlier this week in Spain.  COP25 is the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, which is tasked with making sure that the Convention (aka the 2015 Paris Agreement, which strengthens the Convention), are being implemented.

According to the latest climate chatter: “There is more evidence of the impacts of climate change, especially in extreme weather events, and these impacts are taking a greater toll.  The science shows that emissions are still going up, not down.

“According to the 2019 WMO (World Meteorological Organization) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.”

Some of the trends of commitments on a positive note are: “Small island states together committed to achieve carbon neutrality and to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.  And countries from Pakistan to Guatemala, Colombia to Nigeria, New Zealand to Barbados vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees.”

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte told COP25 on its opening day that because of climate change, ‘rising sea levels pose a direct threat to our very existence.’ ‘None of us can escape the consequences of climate change. None of us can turn a blind eye to what is happening right now, and what will happen in the future,’ the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte reportedly said.  ‘All of us have a responsibility to tackle the causes of climate change and adapt to its impact. All of us – together.’

The Kingdom of the Netherlands comprises of four countries, the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.

Political parties who make-up the 2020 Parliament of Sint Maarten post-January 9th elections, have to unite to bring about serious planning in preparation for climate change, because our own very existence as a nation-state is at stake.  The words uttered by Rutte are also relevant and timely for Sint Maarten. 

A Kingdom approach is required in order to chart a new future for country Sint Maarten as well as the other partners within the Kingdom.  This will require considerable investments to protect our very existence.

We cannot allow disaster risk to outpace resilience.  If we do not change, we will be bound to repeat disaster with catastrophic consequences, and we are now in a race against time.

Climate change should be one of the key issues of political parties vying for a seat in the House of Parliament.

Members of Parliament have to prepare the country’s readiness and resilience for future generations.  We are entering a new decade, and there is no time for procrastination.

Sint Maarten needs a “Climate Change Adapt-Mitigate” Plan of Action as our own very survival as a country depends on it.  Investments made in a timely manner will allow us to mitigate the changes for generations to continue to develop a vibrant and prosperous country for decades to come. 

Let’s work towards preparing our country’s readiness and resilience in a time of climate change.

The clock is ticking, and Sint Maarten is in a race against time. We cannot afford to waste more time.  In 2020 we need bold, decisive decision-making in order to move our nation forward.

Roddy Heyliger

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