By World Bank Group

Every year, June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season in the Caribbean and "serves as a menacing reminder of the critical need for greater resilience," according to Samuel Carrette, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Fisheries for Dominica.

HIGHLIGHTS

PPCR has approved over US$100 million to support climate data-sharing initiatives in six countries in the Caribbean as well as a Caribbean regional program.

SLING is a database of national geospatial information that provides an user-friendly interface to use and share data across multiple sectors to inform national planning.

Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have also integrated GeoNode platforms into their national data management strategies.

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has been enhancing its pool of climate relevant information and data for the Caribbean through a regional information clearinghouse from which 5,000 documents are downloaded each month.

Across the Caribbean, tropical storms and hurricanes bring heavy winds and rain that can ravage entire communities and economies, destroying infrastructure, livelihoods, and lives. It can take years to recover, and many island nations are hard pressed to keep up with repairs and rehabilitation from past storms, let alone strengthen their adaptive capacity to address increasingly variable and extreme weather conditions. The scenario is all too common, but one that Caribbean nations are working to change by improving access to national and regional climate information, sharing knowledge and best practices, and implementing disaster risk management practices—fundamental building blocks of climate-resilient development.

"We are entering into an era where informed decision-making is the new mantra of funding streams coming to island developing nations. It is critical to put systems and platforms in place for easy access to new and existing data," stated Justin Locke of the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Team.

Several information-sharing initiatives are underway and are being supported by the Climate Investment Fund’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), which approved over US$100 million to support six countries in the Caribbean —Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — as well as a Caribbean regional program designed to support all Caribbean countries in their efforts to build greater resilience to climate variability and change. These pilots will help to evaluate innovative practices and technologies and share lessons to improve the adaptive capacity of other countries. Already, these nations are exchanging experiences in regional workshops.

Sharing data across sectors supports planning in Saint Lucia

"We are hoping that more information will propel Saint Lucia into a more prosperous future by being better informed. We also want to show other countries in the Caribbean and around the world that they don’t have to remain at the mercy of climate change," stated Jim Joseph, Geodata Coordinator of the Ministry of Physical Development in Saint Lucia, during a June 5 online discussion of the PPCR online community on data and information-sharing platforms (pdf).

Joseph and a team of experts were on hand during the webinar learning event to share experiences in establishing and gaining support for the Saint Lucia Integrated National Geonode, or SLING, a database of national geospatial information that provides an user-friendly interface to use and share data across multiple sectors to inform national planning. PPCR financing is supporting the effort, including training of employees in key government agencies to build capacity at the national level.

"In October 2010," Joseph explained, "Hurricane Tomas wrought destruction across the island, and [following the storm], one of the main challenges of emergency responders was getting critical information to begin recovery and rebuilding. If you wanted information from another agency, you had to go directly to the agency with a hard disk and often you had to pay for that information."

With the launch of SLING in March 2012, all responders, planners, and development partners, including the private sector, can now rapidly access information to improve Saint Lucia’s disaster preparedness and response and make decisions about physical and economic planning. For example, one private sector energy provider is using the tool to plan strategic placements of their infrastructure so there is less risk from natural disasters. SLING is also being introduced in school settings to add new dimension to high school and college offerings.

"Looking forward I see GeoNode not only being used by disaster response management agencies, but also, for example, schools—schools are using GeoNode as a way of education and selling the idea of data sharing and using GIS [geographic information systems] as a tool for making decisions. Going forward, I see GeoNode being incorporated in almost everything that we do," Joseph said.

Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have also integrated GeoNode platforms into their national data management strategies, and have joined the rest of the Eastern Caribbean countries to initiate and begin fostering an online community of practice. Caribbean countries and agencies working to improve regional geospatial data management also came together in February 2012 at a regional training workshop at the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago to enhance stakeholders’ capacity to integrate data-sharing platforms into their workflow.

Expanding access to regional climate data increases learning

With support from the Caribbean’s regional PPCR program, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has been enhancing its pool of climate relevant information and data for the Caribbean through a regional information clearinghouse. This was the topic of discussion at anotheronline discussion hosted by PPCR online community on June 28 (pdf).

"The flow of information between countries is critical in a region like the Caribbean where one country benefits significantly from others who are in close proximity yet do not always have effective means for sharing with each other," stated Gerard Alleng, Senior Climate Change Specialist of the Inter-American Development Bank.

About 5,000 documents are downloaded each month—up from 2,500 in the past—from the CCCCC information clearinghouse website by government and nongovernment organizations, project managers, universities(researchers and students), consultants, school teachers and the press. Besides providing online materials, the clearinghouse regularly responds to requests for introductory and more advanced material, such as vulnerability and capacity assessments and impact studies. The Centre also responds to requests for technical information, such as climate modeling and grid emission factors for specific countries, as well as hydro-meteorological, geospatial, and other data.

The CCCCC will use PPCR resources to expand the repository of information and analytical tools that can be accessed and shared throughout the Caribbean, allowing countries facing similar impacts from climate change to learn from each other.

The Caribbean hopes that this new paradigm of information sharing will extend beyond PPCR pilot countries and become a standard practice throughout the Caribbean. Data information and gathering is vital to strengthening climate resilience, but the benefits will ultimately prove themselves when decision makers apply the information to improve territorial planning on "where to build" and "how to build."

Contact: Bradley Lyon, blyon@worldbank.org, Knowledge Management Analyst, Latin America & the Caribbean Region, World Bank Group