Long-term Caribbean aid needed
MEXICO CITY: Caribbean nations need faster access to capital to invest in protection against the creeping effects of climate change, as many struggle to recover from the devastating blow of Hurricane Irma, says the president of the Caribbean Development Bank.
Dr William Warren Smith said in a telephone interview that the region would push at coming UN climate talks for richer countries to play a bigger role in helping the Caribbean bolster its defences as rising sea levels and violent storms threatened island states.
“We believe there’s a responsibility of the international community generally to address this problem. We feel that small, vulnerable states like ours are in great need of the resources being transferred to us so we can address the problem that we face, much of which is not our doing,” said Smith, who is Jamaican.
Hurricanes might be occasional events, but sea level rise was “almost continuous”, he added.
Hurricane Irma killed more than 60 people on its rampage through the Caribbean and the south-eastern US, with 43 of those deaths in the Caribbean, where homes were destroyed and basic services devastated.
Scientists have said warmer air and water resulting from climate change may have contributed to the severity of Irma and Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas on August 25.
The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank has made emergency grants and loans to member countries to help cover immediate costs in the wake of Irma.
The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) has paid out $30 million (R395m) so far.
British overseas territory the Turks and Caicos Islands will receive about $13.6m from the insurance scheme, while Anguilla will get some $6.5m. Nearly $6.8m will be funnelled to Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis will receive $2.3m, according to the CCRIF.
Operated and owned by Caribbean countries, the CCRIF allows island nations to pool their premiums in a disaster fund. The first multicountry insurance scheme of its kind, it was launched by the World Bank in 2007 after Hurricane Ivan inflicted billions of dollars in losses on the region in 2004.
Caribbean states had to protect themselves from rising seas and storms with reef rehabilitation, hefty sea defences of boulders, and mangroves that help protect against storm surges, Smith said.