CARICOM chair says confront climate change challenges with unified commitment

From the CARICOM Secretariat

Greater Georgetown, Guyana – With climate change at the centre of discussions among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government, President of Haiti His Excellency Jovenel Moise wants the region to confront the challenges together from a position of strength. He also wants a new mechanism for disaster-risk funding that would assist affected member states to quickly recover and reconstruct. The thinking behind the call for a new mechanism was to ensure that funds for reconstruction are chanelled through “affordable and effective procedures, rather than be paralysed by the expectation of unlikely assistance which, in most cases, is too little, comes too late and, sometimes, never happens,” he said.

Moise, who is the current chairman of CARICOM, addressed the opening ceremony of the 29th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Port-au-Prince Monday and placed much emphasis on climate change, natural disasters and funding for recovery. He said that he was organising an international conference aimed at strengthening the mechanisms of resilience to the effects of climate change and the management of natural disasters in the Caribbean.

“This will be an opportunity for the states, partners and international development actors to exchange ideas and make proposals on the best features of prevention and responses to natural disasters,” he said. “Without your full participation, this conference will not be successful. You are, already, invited.”

In his address, Moise said that he was assuming the chairmanship of the community at a time when it was grappling with the effects of extreme weather caused by global warming. The “sometimes permanent damage and losses” that were consequences of natural disasters slowed the socio-economic development of countries in the region, and prevented them from achieving sustainable development goals, he said.

No stranger to devastation from natural disasters, Haiti is still suffering the effects of the massive 2010 earthquake that killed about 300,000 people, left a similar number injured and more than a million and a half displaced. It continues to be affected by natural weather phenomena, including floods and hurricanes.

Alluding to the damage and the “deep bruising in the spirit” wrought by hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Maria in 2016 and 2017, President Moise saluted the “courage of our brothers and sisters” of the countries that were affected by those storms.

“It is an inescapable fact that the Caribbean region is placed in the path of the cyclones and hurricanes, and that one of the consequences of climate change is the growing intensity of weather phenomena [to] which this area is exposed,” he said. “We must guard against these risks. We must do it together, because isolation led to our regression…,” he said in his address during the hour-long opening ceremony.

He pointed out that the risks caused by climate change were global and that their consequences acted indiscriminately.

“So, the next few years will be crucial,” he said, and added that the region must do everything to respect international commitments, maintain the momentum of the Paris Agreement, and work to overcome challenges related to implementation.

The Republic of Haiti, he said, was very attached to the environmental dimension of sustainable development. As a small island developing state, Haiti was determined to strengthen its resilience to the natural disasters that affected the region each year, he added.