|Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Jacqueline Faria.|
Caracas, Venezuela, June 23, 2005—Environmental education schemes and a newly established National Risk Commission are the ways forward to deal with climate change in Venezuela, according to Minister of Environment Jacqueline Faria. During a meeting called “The earth is sending us signals,” on June 22nd, Minister Faria offered the First National Communication on Climate Change in Venezuela to Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations, Maria del Pilar Hernandez.
According to a presentation of Maria Teresa Martelo from the Ministry of the Environment, climate change has already started in Venezuela. Night temperatures have risen about 2.5 degrees Celsius on average over the last 60 years in Venezuela. Nights in Caracas nowadays are much less cooler than half a century ago. The amount of rainfall has decreased almost throughout the country, which has its impacts on marginal farming areas such as Táchira state: regions where agriculture used to be barely profitable might become unusable in the near future.
Although rainfall in general has decreased, severe rainfall, linked with floods, is on the increase. It is, however, very difficult to foresee where exactly rains will increase and decrease. According to different British and Canadian studies, rainfall overall will decrease between 5 and 25 percent in the coming years in Venezuela. This could lead to serious shortages of drinking water in certain areas, such as the Valencia region.
Venezuela, which is responsible for about 0.48 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, will react to climate change by raising awareness about the issue and by improving conservation and the management of river beds, among other things.
Another way to fight climate change, according to Faria, is through the planting of large amounts of new trees. “We call it Mision Semilla [Mission Seed]. We will collect large amounts of seeds, in order to replant 35.000 hectares of soil with tree seeds this year. We should, however, get to 100.000 hectares annually from 2006 onwards. Trees capture CO2 emissions and avoid soil erosion.”
Faria is convinced that climate change has already started in Venezuela. “We have seen proof during the floods in Vargas in 1999, which were repeated during February 2005. Apart from that, the Isla de Aves and the Isla Margarita are threatened, due to an increased water level in the Caribbean Sea. This in turn is caused by the melting of the polar ice caps, which are expected to decrease their volume in the coming years by 30 to 45 percent.”
Faria seems to have accepted the arrival of climate change and seems to be focusing on how to handle this new situation. “We have set up a National Risk Commission, so we can react immediately when climate disasters occur. Different teams within this Commission are available immediately to help in emergency situations, if necessary abroad as well. Further, we have a National Prognostic Hydrological Center, which can provide us with very detailed information on how much rain is going to fall where. These institutions can issue different levels of alert, through mobile phone messages, or in regions where there is no network, by radio.”
In a short interview with Venezuelanalysis.com, Faria made clear that she doesn’t believe in price increases for gasoline and water as an incentive to save these commodities. Most environmental analysts argue that the conservation of gasoline would help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the main reason for the current climate change. According to Faria, “Increasing the prices could work in mercantile countries. In Venezuela we will do it in a different way. We will focus on educational measures. We will make people use less gasoline and water, not because they have become more expensive, but because people will realize that gasoline is polluting and that water should be shared by all of us. In the end, this will be the most sustainable way to make people change their behavior.”The main tool for fighting climate change internationally is the Kyoto Protocol, which was ratified by Venezuela as well. The Protocol, which sets greenhouse gas reduction targets for countries worldwide, has not been ratified by the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the USA. However, Faria does think that the Protocol can work without the participation of the USA. “It can function, because we believe in the people of the USA. The Americans have been great environmentalists in the past. We ask these environmentalists to demand from the US government that it accepts its responsibility and will finally become a member of the Protocol. The USA emits 25% of all greenhouse gases worldwide. They cannot expect that developing countries will reduce their emissions, while the USA does not. We should be living together on this world. The USA doesn’t own the world, it is owned by more than 6 billion people.”