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Belize's Adaptation To Climate Change Limited By Institutional Challenges

Belize’s vulnerability to climate change is linked to the country’s low adaptive capacity and the country’s increasing dependence on resources sensitive to changes in climate. About one half of Belize’s population are concentrated in coastal population centers, and the country’s economy is highly dependent on commodity exports and tourism, which exacerbates the nation’s economic and social exposure. Crop production and food security, natural ecosystems, marine and coastal areas, water resources and human health, as well as on housing and infrastructure, are the sectors that are most likely to suffer the serious adverse effects of climate variability and climate change.

So far, Belize has developed two major policy documents as part of its climate change adapation initiatives. The first is the National Climate Climate Policy, Strategy and Action Plan. According this strategy document, responding to Belize’s climate vulnerabilities requires making simultaneous advances in adaptation, disaster risk reduction, environmental sustainability and poverty reduction. It further suggests an integrated approach to addressing the underlying causes of disaster risk, and improving preparedness for future disasters, and ensures integration and alignment with national developmental programmes and the Sustainable Development Goals. The second policy document is the Change Action Plan also provides an outline of the steps that Belize needs to take in specific and critical sectors. The Action Plan is a five year programme that runs from 2015 to 2020. Only three years left from expiration, progress on execution of the has been really slow.

The Action Plan is a five year programme that runs from 2015 to 2020. Only three years left from expiration, progress on execution of the Plan has been slow.

Government initiatives on climate change are handled by the National Climate Change Office established in 2012 within the Ministry responsible for Environment and Sustainable Development. The National Policy and Strategy recommends the establishment of a Climate Change Department within the relevant Ministry but this has not yet materialized. Aside from the Climate Change Office, several Ministries and Departments whose functions and ministerial responsibilities are critical for the effective implementation of climate change are also involved. At the leadership level, the Government also established, in 2009, the Belize National Climate Change Committee (BNCCC). This Committee is not yet functional.

So far, much of the push from climate change adaption activities have come from external donors with the government of Belize providing only counterpart contributions. Major initiatives such as the development of the Climate Strategy was made possible by funding from the European Union through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) initiative under a project called the Resilience Enhancement project for €3.2 million (GCCA: €2.9m, Govt of Belize: €0.3m).

The National Climate Change Office and the UNDP Belize Country Office are currently joinly implementing activities under the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) funded by the Government of Japan. The partnership is US$ 15 million project to assist eight (8) Caribbean countries including Belize in communications, developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the transfer of adaptation and mitigation technologies.

Even though the government is receiving much need injection of funding from donors, it needs to roll out the institutional framework to ensure the long term sustainability of the investments being provided by external partners.

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