“Should this new normal persist, the current model of development that relies on significant public sector investment and foreign direct investment will not succeed. In wealthier countries such as the United States, Federal disaster relief funds are quick
the earth’s surface temperature.
In his presentation to the General Assembly days after Maria, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica explained the science behind these catastrophic storms. Warmer air and sea temperatures have permanently altered the climate between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Prime Minister Skerrit, further observed that these warmer temperatures supercharge ordinary storms with devastating effect. This argument is supported by the available science. Warmer ambient temperatures breed more frequent and severe weather events. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016 registered the highest global average surface temperature recorded since record keeping began over 135 years ago. While El Nino is a contributing factor, many scientists point to another factor: human-induced climate change.
Should this new normal persist, the current model of development that relies on significant public sector investment and foreign direct investment will not succeed. In wealthier countries such as the United States, Federal disaster relief funds are quickly channelled to affected areas, leading to a boom in post ‘event’ construction. For independent Caribbean microstates, such largesse is not available. In the case of Dominica, after picking up the pieces following Tropical Storm Erika two years ago, local authorities are now faced with the prospect of starting from scratch; again at the mercy of international donors and financial institutions. This vicious cycle of disaster followed by public sector borrowing makes long-term development planning near impossible. This is to say nothing of the devastating effects that such storms have on the private sector.
The international community must now take concrete action to address what is quickly becoming an existential threat to the Caribbean. In putting this claim to the General Assembly, Prime directed at securing an international settlement that would meaningfully address the systemic risks that climate change poses to small states. Such interventions would be timely in the context of the upcoming World Bank/IMF autumn meetings: the WTO Ministerial Conference, and UNFCCC COP23. Small States should collectively seek the following: (1) ensure that targets set under the Paris Climate Change Accord are met; (2) the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) must be strengthened and scaled-up; (3) additional concessionary finance should be made available through the International Financial Institutions to strengthen resilience and assist small states adapt to weather related threats, and (4) small states at the WTO should leverage their numbers to secure duty free, quota free access to developed country markets. A paradigm shift in global governance is now needed if small island and coastal states are to survive the new normal.