HAVANA, Jan 18 (EFE) Cuba’s location in the Caribbean Sea makes it especially vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, but the island nation has embarked on a plan to combat that threat that began in 2017 and is envisioned to span the entire 21st century.
Those efforts are examined in a recently released documentary – “Cuba’s Life Task: Combating Climate Change” – that premiered at the COP26 global climate summit and now is available for viewing via streaming video over the Internet.
“Tarea Vida” (Life Task) – the name of Cuba’s plan to tackle the 21st century’s great global challenge – is not just another law but a new development paradigm, according to Helen Yaffe, the documentary’s producer and a lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow (United Kingdom).
Yaffe, whose teaching and research focus on Latin American and Cuban development, said the island’s inhabitants are responsible for just 0.08 percent of the world’s carbon-dioxide emissions yet are at disproportionate risk from climate change.
In recent years, hurricanes have increased in number and intensity, temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius, fluctuations between high and low temperatures have become less pronounced and levels of rainfall have fallen.
A “complete transition” is occurring from a humid tropical climate to a subhumid tropical climate, an adviser to Cuba’s Science, Technology and Environment Ministry, Orlando Rey Santos, says in the documentary.
Cuba also faces the problem of deforestation dating back to the colonial era, when the expansion of the sugar cane industry reduced the island’s forest cover from a pre-colonization level of 95 percent to 14 percent at the time of the 1959 communist revolution, according to Cuban historian Reinaldo Funes’ book “From Rainforest to Cane Field in Cuba: An Environmental History Since 1492.”
Post-revolution reforestation programs have raised forest cover to around 30 percent.
Sea levels also are rising, posing a threat to the environment, Cuba’s economy and coastal settlements. The Cuban government estimates that more than 1 million people, or roughly 9 percent of the population, will need to relocate.
The documentary, in which Cuban government representatives appear almost exclusively and no input is solicited from environmental groups, offers an overwhelmingly positive assessment of the “Tarea Vida” program.
Yaffe, author of a book – “We Are Cuba!” – about the survival of the communist system in Cuba following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the loss of significant aid in the form of loans, petroleum and other imports, says Cuba’s program to combat climate change is unique in the world.
She said Cuba has launched a long-term state response that combines the incorporation of environmental science into its laws, natural and domestic solutions and community participation.
The expert noted that the government has total trust in the science that underpins its climate crisis laws and stressed the country’s “incredible scientific capacity,” which was seen in its development of three Covid-19 vaccines.
Secondly, she said Cuba has resorted to “domestic solutions” instead of waiting for outside funding from the United Nations Green Climate Fund or multilateral banks, recalling that Cuba is virtually unable to access international financing.
According to the expert, Cuba’s approach is relevant to the rest of the Caribbean and other countries, especially now that many are highly indebted as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thirdly, Yaffe contrasts the initiative’s focus on community participation and its decentralized approach with plans in many industrialized countries in the West that are proposed from above and guided by profit.
With the COP26 summit widely viewed as a disappointment, the world is looking for an alternate response to an “existential threat,” the producer said, adding that the documentary has been extremely well received from Australia to Latin America. EFE