Photo: CARICOM SG addresses Monday’s technical consultations.
CARICOM SG: Region must adapt to ‘reality of climate change’
Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Resources the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is mobilizing to support reconstruction of hurricane-ravaged member states is intended for them to build back “smarter and better” against the existential threat of climate change.
Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said at the opening of Technical Consultations at the CARICOM-UNDP High Level Pledging Conference Nov. 20 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York that intention was in “full knowledge that we are into a new era” when hurricanes have now become “game changers.”
The two-day event is to mobilize national governments, regional organizations, international development partners, private sectors and civil society to support the construction of what can become the world’s first hurricane resilient countries.
Reminding stakeholders of the hurricane devastation, Secretary-General LaRocque said two Category 5 hurricanes in two weeks, and one, Maria, going from a Category 1 to a Category 5 in fewer than 36 hours, was a signal of a dangerous change in the intensity and frequency of climate events. “The region must therefore adapt to this reality. Time is not on our side. The next hurricane season is seven months away,” he stated.
He said that the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at their 21st Meeting (COP21) in Paris in December 2015 agreed to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2° C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° C.” September’s hurricanes have proven that 1.5 is critical to small island and low-lying coastal developing states (SIDS), which are highly vulnerable to climatic hazards.
He said that since the Paris Agreement, Caribbean scientists have carried out studies to explore the consequences of both a 1.5 and 2.0 degree Centigrade warmer world. “They have found that, given the current trend, the 1.5 target will occur within the next decade, much sooner than previously anticipated,” LaRocque said. “With 1.5, the scientists are predicting generally harsher climatic conditions for our region.”
Emphasizing the urgency of resilient reconstruction, he added that the region “… must prepare for the next catastrophic hurricane, flood or drought. We must therefore be climate resilient in time for the next event.”
He said the community has been taking steps to embed resilience in its planning with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) led Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy 2014-2024 to continue its role as the Caribbean’s platform for achieving risk resilience. The strategy embraces key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, health, education, finance, and physical and environmental planning. Additionally, it places increased focus on harmonizing disaster risk reduction and climate change considerations.
However, he noted that it was obvious that given the new normal, much more needs to be done. The secretary-general lauded the governments and people of the Caribbean Community and its institutions, whom he noted “have stood up to be counted in assisting the affected states.” He added that the community is “eternally grateful” to the international community for its “rendering tremendous support,” including the UNDP from its invaluable support to the CARICOM-UNDP Pledging Conference.