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Climate Change: The Cost of Inaction.

An important issue for country Sint Maarten is climate change. It is an issue that needs to be addressed at the Executive and Legislative levels of Government, and plans of actions developed. The United Nations (UN) climate change body is warning that a stepped-up coordinated response is needed to fend off the impacts of climate change after the world's carbon-dioxide concentrations recently surpassed their highest level in four million years.

According to the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, "The world must wake up and take note of what this means for human security, human welfare and economic development."

Sint Maarten must also wake up. C. Figures also adds, "In the face of clear and present danger, we need a policy response which truly rises to the challenge," she continued urging a "greatly stepped-up response across all three central pillars of action: action by the international community, by government at all levels, and by business and finance."

The latest info says that global concentrations of heat-trapped carbon dioxide in the atmosphere recently passed the 400 parts per million mark, which impacts efforts to limit global warming to two (2) degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre- industrial levels.

The new measurement came from Mauna Loa, a volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has been monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide.

Governments will meet for two-weeks starting on 3 June in Bonn, Germany, for the next round of climate change talks under the umbrella of the UNFCCC. A central focus of the talks will be negotiations to build a new global climate agreement and to drive greater immediate climate action.

A report entitled, "The Caribbean and Climate Change – The Costs of Inaction," from May 2008 by Stockholm Environment Institute – US Center Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, points out that two dozen island nations of the Caribbean, and 40 million people who live here in the region, are in the front lines of vulnerability to climate change.

Facing Caribbean nations including country Sint Maarten are hotter temperatures, sea-level rise and increased hurricane intensity, which would threaten lives, property and livelihoods. The report continues, as ocean levels rise, the smallest, low-lying islands may disappear under the waves. As temperatures rise and storms become more severe, tourism-the life-blood of many Caribbean economies- will shrink and with it both private incomes and the public tax revenues that support education, social services, and infrastructure.

And these devastating impacts will occur regardless of the fact that Caribbean nations including Sint Maarten have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change.

The report offers a preliminary examination of the potential costs to island nations of the Caribbean if greenhouse gas emissions continued unchecked. The report offers two scenario's, an optimistic (entails rapid action to stabilize the impact of climate change or low-impact) and pessimistic scenario (entails business-as-usual or high-impact where greenhouse gasses continue to rise unabated).

The cost of inaction, or the difference between these two scenarios's, may be seen as the potential savings from acting in time to prevent the worst economic consequences of climate change.

The projections presented in the report are by no means a comprehensive picture of all climate change damages. They are based on three categories of effects: hurricane damages, tourism losses, and infrastructure damages.

The Caribbean's annual cost of inaction is projected to total US$ 22 billion annually by 2050 and US$ 46 billion by 2100. As each year goes by, the costs continues to increase, hence why it is so important to prepare from now by developing a plan of action for the next 30 to 50 years – because it is a long-term investment – to mitigate and adapt as a country.

The investment is made for the long-term, and for the sustainability of future generations of Sint Maarteners. It is an investment into our children and their children's children, by maintaining a secure sustainable living environment.

The costs of inaction mentioned in the report for the former Netherlands Antilles back in 2008 which Sint Maarten formed a part of, for 2025 up to 2100 would be US$ 2.7 billion of Gross Domestic Product based on (low/high impact).

What is country Sint Maarten's policy response in rising to the challenge of climate change?

Roddy Heyliger

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