Doha – Sea level rise, coral bleaching, flooding, drought and heat waves associated with global warming are affecting Belize, a UN conference on Climate Change heard Thursday.

“Adaptation is critical for Belize. Global warming has increased the number and intensity of coral bleaching episodes resulting in irreparable harm to our reefs. The marine resources that rely on the ecosystem provided by the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere are feeling these effects and are either declining or migrating to more hospitable environments. Sea level rise is increasing erosion on the mainland and many of our offshore islands, “ Belize’s Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Lisel Alamilla said Thursday.

Speaking at the high-level session, she said during the annual spring tides, the municipal airport in Belize City is inundated twice a day rendering the airport inoperable and disrupting domestic air transport.

“This is a new phenomenon for us. Droughts and heat waves are adversely affecting agriculture and poultry production and threatening our food security. Intense rainfall episodes which are now occurring annually are disrupting transportation, washing away bridges and undermining roads,” she said adding that adaptation comes at a great cost to her country.

If the international community fails to undertake ambitious actions to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impacts of climate change to Belize will be significantly greater and more extensive, she told delegates attending the conference.

Belize is also prepared to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions which at last inventory shows that over 95% of emissions came from the land use and forestry sectors. Belize has the highest percent of natural forest cover in the Mesoamerican region.

Over a 30 year period from 1998 to 2010, historic baseline of forest cover loss was estimated at an annual rate of 0.6 percent but the past two years has seen a significant increase in deforestation rate.

To mitigate this threat, Alamilla said the government is adopting policy measures for responsible land-use and development.

Linda Hutchinson-Jafar is Editor of Earth Conscious Magazine

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