August 11, 2022 | Kim Hendriksen & John Samson
The consequences of climate change are already being felt on Curaçao. On a political level, little is concretely happening, even though a report has been ready for some years.
For example, the island must build differently, produce more sustainable energy and be better prepared for extreme weather. Food shortages are becoming one of the biggest challenges due to climate change, while the island is almost completely dependent on foreign countries.
On the street, people notice little action from politics when it comes to climate change.
Report by Kim Hendriksen
A report from the Meteorological Service has been available since 2019. It contains all sorts of examples that politicians can work with.
Curaçao will also have to handle rainwater much smarter and more economically, e.g. Less rain already falls on the island, and in the future it will probably only fall.
Climate change: food becomes more expensive due to crop failure
In addition to water management, there is also a need for more agriculture, e.g. The UN expects severe food shortages in about thirty years due to crop failure due to extreme weather.
Curaçao imports no less than ninety percent of all food, says Martis. “We must prepare ourselves if something happens abroad in the field of agriculture. We have to come up with a policy to develop our own agriculture so that people can produce here themselves.”
Running air conditioning costs energy – which is already expensive on the islands. Because extreme heat will occur more often, buildings will also have to be built differently. “How can we build buildings that use less energy to keep it cool inside?” says Martis.
‘There are already companies that build climate-consciously’
The cabinet has not yet come up with a plan for the construction that the report recommends. “There are already companies that build climate-consciously. But more emphasis should be placed on it.”
The government also has no answer to the question of how the infrastructure is protected. The commercial wharf in Willemstad is threatened by sea level rise, as is the location around Fort Amsterdam, where the government is located.
More research, more information
Until now, little concrete political action has been taken: there are no answers to the big questions, such as the enormous dependence on foreign countries for food.
The coalition agreement for the Pisa II cabinet contains a small section on climate change. The government’s aim is to provide information and further research.
On the street, several residents say that they do not notice much about the information. On TV, radio and in the newspapers, they also read a little about the political fight against climate change.
“There has been a committee for about two to three years to further develop this water management plan,” said Albert Martis, director of the Meteorological Service. “The aim is to inform the politicians about the possible scenarios. So they can make policy on how we can better manage water on the island in the future.”
No debate on climate change yet
What is also striking is that there has never been a debate in Curaçao’s parliament on the policy against climate change. The autonomous country itself is responsible for coming up with plans.
Giselle McWilliam of the opposition MAN party says she made a request last year to set up a central committee on climate change. “But nothing has been done about it yet. We are still waiting.”
Hundreds of millions are needed
Minister Charles Cooper (traffic, transport and spatial planning) wants to make energy more sustainable. It is estimated that hundreds of millions are needed for this, which the island does not have.
That awareness also seems to exist in the political Hague. Dutch Minister Rob Jetten (Energy and Climate) promised to provide more information around the summer on how all six islands can be helped. Especially with the financing. That letter has not arrived yet.
This month, it seems that Curaçao has the ambition to export sustainable energy in the Caribbean and in Latin America. Government representative Carlson Manuel held talks about this in The Hague with Minister Jetten.
‘We are busy’
In response to the report, the government has created the ‘Curaçao Climate Change Platform’ (CCCP). There has only been one meeting since May because the corona pandemic has caused delays.
Albert Martis on the Curaçao Climate Change Platform
Gwendell Mercelina (PNP) describes raising awareness of climate change in politics as ‘crying in the desert’. “The coalition agreement or the government program does not say much about climate change,” Mercelina acknowledges. “But we are working on the implementation of the sustainable development goals [van de Verenigde Naties, red.]that is one of the most important goals.”
In the podcast The Forgotten Climate Crisis, the politician was unable to answer the question of what politics should do if a devastating hurricane like Irma hits Curaçao.
Seaweed plague sargassum
In the past month, Sint Maarten has already had to deal with the consequences of climate change. For example, there has been an explosive growth of the sargassum seaweed in the past ten years. Kilometers of sea and beach are covered, resulting in a lot of damage to nature.
The question is not if, but when Curaçao will also have to deal with a plague of this magnitude that makes the beaches inaccessible to tourists. Politicians will also have to find a solution to this problem; how to clear the coast as quickly as possible.