Climate change remains an ‘existential threat’ to the Caribbean, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque reminded an International Conference on Building Resilience to Natural Disasters, held in in Budapest, Romania, on Tuesday, according to a release from the Caricom Secretariat.
“It has been recorded that between 2000 and 2017, Member States of our Community suffered at least seven major disasters in which damage ranged from 33% to 226% of the affected country’s GDP”, Ambassador LaRocque told the high-level Conference, attended by several CARICOM Foreign Ministers.
He pointed to the 2017 experience where the estimated cost of reconstruction after the devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria was put at US$5 billion region-wide.
“For us therefore, especially with the prediction of more intense and frequent storms, seeking to build resilience against that phenomenon is urgent,” he said.
Romania, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is using the Conference for debate and exchange of good practices regarding resilience to natural disasters, and to identify and develop cooperation models between States in order to reduce the effects of global warming.
Ambassador LaRocque, in highlighting the factors required to build the necessary resilience, stressed the importance of having access to concessional development financing well in advance of a disaster. He however bemoaned the fact that Member States, because of being labelled middle-income countries, cannot access this type of financing, since the principal criterion used is GDP per capita.
“From our perspective, there is urgent need for the international community and international financial institutions to change the criteria for access to concessional development financing by middle-income SIDS. Substantial weight must be accorded to our vulnerability in this regard. The OECD has begun looking at the issue. We need the support of all OECD Members,” the Secretary General told the Conference.
Ambassador LaRocque also pointed to the ongoing threat to the Region’s Financial Services sector from the ‘unwarranted labelling of some of our economies as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by the EU’. Financial services, he emphasised, is a significant contributor to public finances in many CARICOM States and a source of funding for building resilience.
Noting that the EU blacklisting ‘amounts to an attack on our economies’, the Secretary-General acknowledged host country Romania’s understanding of CARICOM’s concerns with regards to the EU’s actions and processes and its assistance in bringing them to the attention of the appropriate EU authorities.