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Caribbean parliaments examine impact of climate change on health

MPs at PET recycling factory, Trinidad

MPs visit the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Recycling Depot. Photo: © IPU/A. Blagojevic

Climate change and its impact on health were the focus of a parliamentary seminar on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held in early December in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The timing coincided with the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain.

The seminar Strengthening parliamentary action on the SDGs was co-organized by the IPU and the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. It was attended by parliamentarians from eight Caribbean countries as well as representatives of international organizations, civil society and experts.

The ensuing Port of Spain Declaration recognizes climate change as a cross-cutting issue, impacting health and sanitation in particular but also agriculture, tourism and infrastructure. Small island states of the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable to its impact.

The Declaration states that: “The changing climate presents the region with new health challenges: public health can be compromised when there is a lack of access to adequate fresh water and nutrition; extreme weather events are linked to the transmission of diseases; greater variability in rainfall can lead to an increase in some vector- and water-borne diseases; and the changing climate increases air pollution. … Parliaments should ensure that core public health capacities effectively detect and respond to threats and are sufficiently funded. Parliaments should also promote greater regional cooperation in the prevention of and response to health emergencies.”

MPs also explored innovative approaches to engaging with citizens and raising awareness of the national sustainable development strategy, and to getting young people involved in achieving the SDGs. They stressed the importance of cooperation between parliaments in the region and through the IPU to better tackle the challenges faced by the Caribbean countries. The seminar was an invaluable opportunity to exchange best practices and experiences.