Several powerful hurricanes wreaked havoc in many Caribbean countries. What we previously experienced as extreme weather is becoming more and more normal. The Caribbean must now receive support for climate adaptation and reconstruction. The situation is urgent, writes Caribbean Community President Irwin LaRocque and the head of the UN Development Program, Achim Steiner.
Imagine having to move the population of an entire country, a country facing huge hurricanes and two months later still not having the opportunity to return. Now imagine spending nights in a shelter to wander around at dawn in what you previously called your community, your city and your country - but instead be met by a place reduced to something resembling the doom of the world.
This is not fiction. Irma and Maria, two Category Five hurricanes, swept across the Caribbean in September. As a wave of devastation, the hurricanes took their lives, destroyed infrastructure and caused great economic damage, especially to the smaller countries in the area that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
The islands of Barbuda and Dominica were completely destroyed. The situation in Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands was critical after the hurricane's advance, but the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands were also hit hard - as were Haiti and Saint Kitts and Nevis. All are members, or associate members, of the Caribbean community CARICOM. Parts of Sint Maarten, Cuba and the Dominican Republic were also affected, as were Puerto Rico and Florida in the United States.
Billions of dollars in costs
The important sectors of tourism and agriculture are hard hit, resulting in fewer jobs - followed by people losing their homes. In-depth studies are currently underway examining the effects of the hurricanes, but estimates show that the cost of recovery is over $ 3 billion.
Not even the Caribbean, which is in the region most prone to natural disasters, has experienced anything like this. The occurrence of recurring category five hurricanes warns of a dangerous change in the intensity and frequency of climate-related disasters - and challenges what we previously perceived as extreme or normal.
The number of severe hurricanes is expected to increase by 40 percent if global temperatures rise by 2 degrees, and up to 80 percent if the temperature rises by 4 degrees, according to the report "Turn down the Heat" of the World Bank. The report also shows that rising sea levels, as a consequence of rising global temperatures, will have a devastating effect on small island nations, especially in the Caribbean.
Since the hurricanes hit, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and the Regional Department of Disaster Management, CDEMA. worked on site with the UN. The work is led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). The International Committee of France, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and the Red Cross are also present. Women and men are currently working around the clock to rebuild these communities and make them more resilient and stronger. In seven months, the next hurricane season will come and the population will need resilient communities to cope with what awaits.
The more serious and frequent natural disasters are hampering reconstruction and will be impossible without international support, especially for the most vulnerable and indebted small island nations.
UN conference to seek support
The needs are urgent. That is why the UN and CARICOM are organizing a conference at the UN headquarters in New York on 21 November. The conference is an opportunity for the world to show its support for the affected countries in the Caribbean - and their work to rebuild their communities. The support is important because the Caribbean is hard hit by climate change, without having really contributed to it.
Now, more than ever, it is important for the international community to rethink the traditional criteria for development finance, which are mainly based on per capita GDP. The vulnerable countries of the Caribbean are denied access to such funding because they are ranked as middle-income countries. The criteria must be reviewed and the international community must take into account the economic and environmental vulnerability of the small island nations.
The situation is urgent, we must act now. In order for the Caribbean countries to be able to meet the Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030, they must have access to funding immediately - including for climate adaptation. In order for us to achieve the goal of eliminating all forms of poverty everywhere, it is crucial to invest in preventive work - to increase the resilience of societies, countries and regions in social, economic and environmental areas.
We invite everyone to support the Caribbean countries through global climate action "CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference: Building a More Climate-Resilient Community ”on 21 November. We must all act now, before it is too late.
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