The New Today


Is Grenada serious about climate change?

As with other small island states (SIDS), the Caribbean island of Grenada will bear the brunt of the coming climate catastrophe. How prepared are we?

Last week, the annual conference on global climate issues began in Egypt (6th to 18th November 2022). This year’s COP27 will build on the outcomes of last year’s 26th conference (COP26) in Glasgow to deliver action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.

The mantra of the previous COP26 was “keep 1.5 alive.” Unfortunately, the goal of keeping the earth’s climate to under 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels has all but died (if it was ever really alive). We are now at 1.3 degrees and current projections are for 2.4 degrees by 2100.

The best case scenarios bring that down to 1.8 degrees, but they require the world’s carbon emissions to hit net-zero by 2050, which is probably not realistic (although we should still try– every degree matters).

This means that, even if the world reduces its carbon footprint (including by means of yet unproven carbon-scrubbing technology), Grenada will absolutely see increasingly negative effects from a warming global climate in the near future, including sea level rise and extreme weather events. Indeed, we are already seeing some of these now.

Yet, for a country (along with other SIDS) poised to bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change, Grenada has not been merely under-prepared but actively obstructionist in preparations.

In recent years, we have actually reduced our resilience by actively weakening coastal ecosystems; failed to enact and implement targeted legislation to protect remaining marine and terrestrial resources, and despite receiving millions of dollars in climate funds, we seem to have very little to show for them.

Three issues, namely ‘Weakening Coastal Ecosystems, Legislation and Climate Funds have galvanized GLA to share their thoughts.

Weakening Coastal Ecosystems
Grenada sent its delegation to COP27, to be part of the negotiations and arguments for the world’s lack of commitment to financing developing countries in their fight against climate change.

The developing world contributes a miniscule amount towards the effects of climate change and yet is faced with the most damage and destruction. However, while acknowledging this fact, our small island state has been contributing to its own destruction.

In just the past two years, we have seen three (3) mega-resort projects in pristine coastal areas gain approval by the Government, all through the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program, which has been associated with questionable financial practices or improprieties in other countries.

Three of the largest mangrove forests in Grenada are now under immediate threat at three coastal sites: La Sagesse, Mt. Hartman, and Levera – the last also being Grenada’s only RAMSAR-designated site (meaning that it is listed as a wetland of International importance by UNESCO).

Unfortunately, this has not resulted in its protection from threats of destruction, but increased its attractiveness to developers. These three areas are all victims of hasty, pre-approval by the former administration, allowing large scale concrete tourist developments to begin, in some cases, before rigorous environmental impact assessments (EIAs) were conducted, or heeding EIA recommendations when completed.

This is unsustainable coastal development at a time when we need to preserve these coastal ecosystems more than ever.

A recent article in Human Ecology Journal entitled “Mangroves for Money” enumerated the enormous cost of these new mega resorts to Grenada: 59 hectares of mangroves destroyed (20% of Grenada’s total), 59k tonnes of extra carbon released from mangrove destruction, $2-3 million USD lost every year in ecosystem services (e.g., pollination, water quality, fisheries) (Buckmire et al. 2022).

Government failure to act and be vigilant is not for lack of legislation. In the past few years, several important laws have been passed by parliament but simply ignored and not implemented or enforced.

The 2016 Physical Planning Act – a revision of previous planning acts – converted the Physical Planning Unit into a more autonomous “authority” but has only been selectively implemented.

Surprisingly, the present government has yet to set up an EIA committee that is qualified to review studies conducted for planned developments, let alone a Natural and Cultural Heritage committee, mandated under the Act to address threats to Grenada’s heritage.

Under the previous government, these committees functioned as rubber-stamps, often granting approval well after construction had begun. In cases of government projects (e.g., flood mitigation along the St. John River or the breakwater project in Sauteurs Bay), no EIA was ever attempted. Surely these projects would have benefited from such studies.

Similarly, the Museum Act of 2017 has only been partially implemented – a new board is presumably being convened now, but the Grenada National Museum has been hobbling along as dead weight for years.

The Act granted the Museum broad oversight over archaeological sites throughout the country, yet it was not involved in reviewing the heritage impacts of these mega resorts.

In 2019, government passed the Integrated Coastal Management Act, a comprehensive and progressive legislation for protecting coastal zones with fines for destroying coastal environments, but this has yet to be implemented (e.g., there is not yet an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Unit and no Director has been hired, as required in the Act).

Making matters worse, the Act repealed earlier protection, in the form of the 1979 Beach Protection Act. This leaves enforcement of no sand mining of beaches in Grenada in a precarious situation. Since no regulations or subsidiary legislation have been passed to support the Coastal Act yet, there is no capacity to enforce illegal sand-mining or oversee the impacts of local entities such as Gravel and Concrete which have been given limited permissions to remove sand in specific locations in the past.

Sand mining devastated Grenada’s beaches in the late 1980’s up to the early 2000’s, particularly those on the western side of the island, in the name of cheap sand for the construction sector.

Many Caribbean islands are concerned about the future impact of Climate Change on the region’s beaches and low lying coastal areas. However, in Grenada’s case simple measures, using existing legislation, to protect and preserve beaches for public recreation and sea turtle habitat are not being utilized. In other cases, lip service was given to international agreements but ignored in practice.

In 2019, Grenada signed the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (aka the Escazú Agreement). Yet ratification has not been forthcoming.

Among other things, this agreement ensures the public can access all information regarding development impacts and planning decisions – currently up to the whim of Physical Planning, despite legal precedent for access to this information having already been set in the region.

In fact, our current system entitles the developer ownership over the EIA for their project, ensuring the public has no idea what the recommendations were (and thus, if they were followed).

MPAs and National Parks
The Fisheries Act of 1999 outlines the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), but while several were listed in the years since, we currently have no actively-managed MPAs on mainland Grenada.

In Grenada, the Grand Anse, Molinere, Beausejour and Woburn/Clarke’s Court Bay MPAs have no staff or wardens allocated to managing activities in these areas and no active management plans. Only the Sandy Island Oyster Bed MPA in Carriacou appears to have active management.

Without enforcement of MPA legislation the marine ecosystems in these areas will be subject to marine pollution, damage from uncontrolled anchoring and destruction of mangroves, seagrass beds due to building of jetties, marinas and large scale developments.

# Likewise, the National Parks Act of 2009 laid out the process of protecting areas. In fact, the Act was first passed in 1990, yet Grenada has never had a functional national park system.

Grenada has a protected area systems plan which highlights areas for future protection and studies and draft plans have been developed to support the designation of future marine and terrestrial protected areas, no procedures are taking place to protect these areas.

Climate Funds
For the past 10 years, on the surface, Grenada has been the poster child for positive action concerning climate resilience and mitigation in the Caribbean. Grenada has now submitted two NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), the agreement to reduce carbon emissions, despite its already low emissions.

As a result of its apparent diligence, Grenada has been the recipient of many bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects to help adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, including from the Government of Germany and nearly USD $65 million (XCD $175 million) from the Green Climate Fund (compared to 16.5 million USD to St Lucia and 17 million USD to St Vincent and the Grenadines).

The Green Cimate funding was earmarked for NAWASA to improve access and delivery of freshwater which will become a major issue in the near future.

It is ironic that the former Minister of Environment and Climate Change, part of the former administration that permitted the massive coastal destruction here in Grenada is being hailed on the world stage and appointed to head the UN climate change body, UNFCCC.

It appears that Grenada’s failure to hold its leaders accountable, coupled with the UN’s desire to have SIDS run the UNFCCC, have greenwashed the very people who have done so much harm. Despite this condition comes great opportunity for redemption and it is hoped that the new head UNFCCC will capitalize on it.

The new government in Grenada is also presented with an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and engage in real sustainable practices to preserve our natural resources and vulnerable ecosystems.

The government must implement and enforce the patchwork of laws that are already on the books – the Museum Act, the ICMZ Act, the Fisheries Act, National Parks Act. All proposed projects (whether by government or other parties) must first conduct an approved, scientific EIA before any phase of the project begins. This means that the Physical Development Agency needs to set up the EIA and heritage advisory committees so that qualified, competent people can review these plans.

Grenada Land Actors