This study comes about through the interest of Oxfam in deepening and clarifying the elements that are at the foundation of the processes to combat climate change, developed and implemented in Cuba since the mid nineties. The general perspective is that there are useful elements that should be incorporated into regional and global campaigns on climate change. The objectives of this study are to identify and share the good practices and policies of the Cuban State and people with regard to climate change. Specific areas of interest were prioritized, including: identifying current and future risks attributable to climate change, protecting lives from climate change hazards and reducing the impacts of climate change on agriculture. Over the last four decades Cuba has made important progress in developing policies and practices for emergency preparedness and response,especially for disasters provoked by hurricanes. This effort has been the result of a combination of directives and priorities identified by the central government, along with initiatives from the population itself, already accustomed to more than four decades of exercises and real evacuations that must be carried out several times per year.
The effects of climate, though already severe, are growing ever more harmful for water, soil, agriculture, health and the forests on the island. There is already evidence of problems in the water supply, erosion, decrease in crop yields, proliferation of vectors which cause disease and reduction in forest coverage. Future scenarios point to devastating effects over the coming decades in practically all under-developed countries. One of the advantages that Cuba has for facing climate risks is its complex and effective national civil defense system that allows the country to minimize – or even eliminate – the loss of human lives during the severe hurricane season that the Cuban people face year after year.
Starting in the early nineties a research program began on the impacts of climate change on the population, agriculture, water and health. These efforts continued throughout the rest of that decade and into the next. Some of the most concrete achievements include acquiring capacity for identifying climate risks, developing educational and communication programs, promoting human safety, health maintenance, supporting agriculture and protecting natural resources, all in the context of adaptation to climate change.
Despite this, Cuban society still faces enormous challenges. These include the extension of agro-ecology practices, reduction of damages caused by disasters, expanding preparedness practices, improvement of early warning systems and progress in the “Energy Revolution” to de-centralize and generate energy more efficiently and free from oil.