Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are one and the same
By Kerry-Ann Thompson

Friday, 13 February 2015


In my line of work, I hear these sentiments echoed by the Disaster Management community in many of the Caribbean countries. For each time I hear the message I am reminded that I have my work cut out for me. I have a mission that is twofold: to convince the doubtful that Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) advances the work of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR); and to encourage those who have not formed an opinion to promote the importance of the nexus between CCA and DRR. The clearing up of doubts about the importance of CCA toward reducing disaster risk is an essential preliminary stage of the Climate-Smarting process.

This is what my team and I set out to do on our missions to Mainstream Climate Change into Disaster Management planning in the countries that are in the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) system.

In each country we visit, we encourage and support governments and communities to integrate Climate Change considerations into existing Disaster Management Country Work Programmes and Community Disaster Management Programmes.

The stakeholders we work with typically represent national-level sectors such as tourism, agriculture, planning, finance, civil society and commerce. At the community level, you will frequently find housewives, community liaison officers, Community Emergency Response Team members and retirees participating in the consultative meetings.

We use various platforms to share the message with the many stakeholders. We use video presentations to showcase best practices and approaches by others from different parts of the region; we engage stakeholders in a game of “Jeopardy” to reinforce knowledge; and we encourage persons to come up with their own nuanced messages that they think will most effectively reach their neighbours. Then we get down to work and ensure that all voices are heard in planning for Climate Change and Disaster Risk.

Changes are already occurring and to ensure these remain we provide funds for Climate Change Adaptation projects in communities. These have included schools that promote CCA through a certification programme; an energy efficiency programme that consists of a public-awareness campaign and an energy audit for pilot homes; and rainwater harvesting for dual-purpose shelters for both post-hazard and during the dry season. These projects are varied and demonstrate that community stakeholders can be supported by their respective National Disaster Offices to adapt to Climate Change and mitigate the effects of disasters.

The projects are certainly useful but it is the mindset change that is expected to result in small but cumulative changes in practices that promote CCA, and ultimately contribute to reduce disaster risk. One concerned citizen pulled me aside at the end of one workshop in the St. Kitts and Nevis community of Conaree, a place already vulnerable to the effects of climate change, tropical storms and hurricanes. He said to me, “before I came to this workshop, I really didn’t understand this Climate Change thing. Now, I realize that we have to do something about this.”

Dr. Kerry-Ann Thompson leads a regional project aimed at integrating Climate Change considerations into the planning framework and mechanism at the National and Community level. The Project, entitled “Mainstreaming Climate Change into Disaster Management, Phase 2” (CCDM-II), is implemented by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and funded by the Austrian Development Agency. The project is being implemented until June 30, 2015. The intended beneficiaries of the CCDM-II are the 18 CDEMA Participating States. Kerry-Ann can be reached at