Driving Climate Change from the Top in the Dominican Republic

Street scene in the Dominican Republic. Credit: Ben Albano /
Unsplash

By Jan Lundius
SANTO DOMINGO, Nov 2 2020 (IPS)

When President Luis Abinader arrived at his inauguration in an
electrically driven car as a symbolic gesture of his Government’s
intentions to make sustainable development one of its main
objectives – he signalled the start of addressing climate change
commitments in the country.

Abinader furthermore said he would immediately initiate
preparations to make the presidential palace dependent on solar
energy for its electrical supply – a commitment towards moving
the country from being dependent on non-renewable energy.

Since his August inauguration, his Government has moved towards
revising and making good the commitments of the Paris Agreement
where it agreed to implement Nationally Determined
Contributions
(NDCs).

The Dominican Republic’s President Luis Abinader

The Paris Agreement was in itself a success because since then,
most of the signatories have submitted national climate mitigation
goals. Five years have passed, and according to the agreement, the
signatory countries must now revise their NDCs, an opportunity for
aligning their climate and development agendas and revisit their
efforts to mobilise interest and funding for achieving their
previously set goals.

On October 1, 2020, the Dominican Republic launched its NDC
update process. The event included representatives from the
Government, the private sector, the civil society, development and
implementing partners and the academia, and its purpose was to
showcase and raise awareness on the NDC update process, its steps
and implications for these different stakeholders.

As part of an endeavour to mainstream an eco-friendly approach
to all policies, the Dominican Republic, with the support of
The Climate Action
Enhancement Package (CAEP)
, is working on a revised and
enhanced NDC strategy. This strategy includes a medium-term
implementation, finance and investment plan to effectively address
water management, ecosystem preservation, food security, smart
urban development and dependency on fossil fuels.

Simultaneously the plan will be supported by a strengthening
capacity and awareness for safeguarding natural resources. An
assessment of attained achievements will in 2025 constitute the
groundwork for the development and implementation of a long-term
strategy leading up to 2050.

Max Puig, Executive Vice President of the Dominican National
Council for Climate Change and a Clean Development Mechanism

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Max Puig, Executive Vice
President of the Dominican National Council for Climate Change and
a Clean Development Mechanism said despite a change of regime and
hardship caused by COVID-19, many of the commitments made five
years ago are gradually becoming realised.

NDCs
are country-specific, though Puig repeatedly reminded us that even
if every country has its specific character and preconditions, the
implementation of NDCs must go beyond national efforts. CAEP is a
step in this direction since it provides international expertise,
as well as technical and financial support to countries in need of
such assistance.

Like most other island nations, the Dominican Republic is
grappling with several unique challenges, which solution would
benefit from foreign expertise.

A significant concern is that even if the Dominican Republic has
one of the largest and most diverse economies in the Caribbean, it
still relies on imported fossil fuels for nearly all of its energy
needs. The NDCs have become one tool for amending this problem.
While seeking solutions to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it is
necessary to invest in alternative and more sustainable energy
production.

A step in this direction is to determine the extent of the
emissions and sources of greenhouse gas, something that has been
realised through a CAEP supported cooperation between the Dominican
Government and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
IRENA is an agency that assists Governments towards renewable
energy and author of a report A Renewable Energy Roadmap providing
essential energy statistics.

Findings and suggestions the IRENA document has been further
developed in reports on impacts of renewable energy in Dominican
power systems and a study of renewable energy prospects. The
research highlighted a potential to increase the share of renewable
power generation to as much as 44 percent by 2030, based mostly on
solar photovoltaic, wind and bioenergy.

While talking to Puig, you are reminded that the Dominican
Republic is part of an island and thus to a great extent dependent
on its coast – both for its booming tourism industry and for
maintaining its ecological health and distinctiveness.

The coastal ecology is another CAEP initiative, supporting the
cooperation between the National Climate Change Council and The
Nature Conservancy (TNC). This international NGO is currently
updating collected data to identify highly vulnerable coastal areas
and in 2019 published a study mapping and describing threatened
ecosystems, like coral reefs and mangroves. TNC is currently
working with the Government to develop the effective management of
more than 3.2 million acres of terrestrial and marine habitats.

Puig mentioned that because the Dominican Republic is an island
nation, it is considered to be one of the ten most vulnerable
countries in the world when it comes to the effects of climate
change.

The Dominican Republic is situated right in the frequent path of
devastating hurricanes, which, due to global warming, now may gain
even more strength. There is a constant threat of flooding, and the
arrival of a hurricane generally causes extensive landslides and
loss of livelihoods.

The Dominican Republic’s Unit for Coordination of Water
Resources is currently assessing these risks, supported by CAEP
activities led by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB). The
analysis will include the development of a viable approach for
limiting the harmful effects of sudden flooding based on a
multi-stakeholder approach involving relevant sectors of the Global
Water Partnership (GWP).

While discussing the ecological peculiarities of the Dominican
Republic, Puig accentuated the importance of considering the nation
as part of a unique, insular ecosystem shared with the Republic of
Haiti.

The island of Hispaniola is, with its 76,000 square kilometres,
roughly the same size as the three Benelux countries together
(Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg). Despite its limited size, the
island has four distinctive eco-regions; moist forest areas, dry
forests, moist grasslands and dry savannas.

This diversity is due to the highest mountain range in the
Caribbean, which stretches diagonally across the island, placing
nearly a third of the territory in a rain shadow. For historical
reasons, far too complicated to address here, extreme contrasts are
also evident in the political makeup of the island.

It is the only island in the world shared by two sovereign
nations, and even if the ecosystem initially has been the same in
the two parts of the island, natural resources are more depleted in
Haiti than in the Dominican Republic.

Puig lamented that many of his Dominican fellow citizens assume
that a wall along the border would solve any problems. Far better
would be to consider the entire island as an ecological unity
within which social and eco-friendly solutions are pursued in
unison.

Hispaniola has the largest economy in the Greater Antilles. Most
of this economic development is found in the Dominican economy,
which is almost 800 percent larger than the one in Haiti.

As of 2018, the estimated annual per capita was USD 8,050 in the
Dominican Republic and USD 868 in Haiti. This contrast in economic
well-being makes the border between Haiti and the Dominican
Republic, one of the sharpest divisions between need and relative
prosperity in the world. A reason why the Dominican Republic has
one of the highest migration influxes in the Americas.

According to Puig, a solution to this problem would be to
emphasise the human aspect of sustainable development. Poverty,
ignorance and inequality weaken the resilience of any nation and
obstruct sustainable development. Cooperation – local, bilateral
and international – is necessary, as well as compassion, respect
for human dignity and social awareness. If we finally learn to
realise that the conservation of our planet’s natural resources
is a prerequisite for human survival, maybe every Government would
come to understand the futility of short-term actions and
unnecessary strife.

With CAEP, the Government is working on several fronts. These
include strengthening its overall climate-related mechanisms
through coordination of government institutions in charge of the
National Climate Change Policy. At a practical level, there will be
a framework for ecosystem-based adaptation projects, along with the
provision of capacity building for implementing such projects. The
Dominican Republic has committed to identify and prioritise a
pipeline of investment-ready projects at all levels including
energy, agriculture, industry, transport, water and sanitation
services, buildings and infrastructure and livelihoods
diversification.

Finally, IPS asked Puig why he was engaged in such a thorny
venture as Dominican politics?

“In spite of all the difficulties and frustrations you
encounter through political engagement, I assume that for many of
us, politics equals a belief in a change for the better. A
transition of power, like the one the Dominican Republic now
experiences, promises improvement, nurtures imagination and action,
and stimulates dreams and visions,” he replied.

https://youtu.be/zHyq6mmn52Q
https://youtu.be/RR-ClA3LJaU

(Additional reporting Cecilia Russell)

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Driving Climate Change from the Top in the Dominican Republic

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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Driving Climate Change from the Top in the Dominican
Republic