Speeches / Presentations

Opening Statement – Risk Informed Development – Securing a resilient future for the Caribbean Community SIDS started twenty years ago

Co- Chair Session II: Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

The CARICOM SIDS recognized very early their vulnerability to the projected impacts of climate change and sea level rise soon after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its first report. As a consequence it immediately sought support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in its efforts to mitigate and adapt to the projected impacts. In the period 1997 – 2012 four projects were implemented. The first three of these projects addressed issues related to building regional capacity for adaptation.


The fourth project was a set of adaptation pilots addressing the water and agriculture sectors and in the design and retrofitting of a hurricane shelter to withstand the impact of stronger hurricanes. The redesigned, retrofitted shelter served as a means of demonstrating new building codes the Caribbean should adopt to face what is increasingly the new normal, that is, categories 4 & 5 hurricanes.


During the course of the implementation of the second project it was recognized that to address the long-term adaptation needs of the CARICOM SIDS, a coordinated institutional effort would be needed. In 2002 the CARICOM Heads of Government approved the establishment of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (also known as the 5Cs) with a mandate to coordinate the regional response to climate change and its efforts to manage and adapt to its projected impacts.


In 2009 the CARICOM Heads of Government expressed considerable concerns about the severe threats posed by a changing climate to their development prospects and have come to the conclusion that both mitigation and adaptation options will require a significant and sustained investment of resources that the Member States would be unable to provide on their own. These concerns are reflected in the Liliendaal Declaration which the CARICOM Heads of Government endorsed at their meeting in Guyana in July 2009.


Also in July 2009 the Heads of Government approved: A Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (2009 – 2015) and subsequently its Implementation Plan (2011 – 2021) in 2012. These documents are living documents and are currently being revised to ensure their relevance to current situations. They serve as a road map for securing a climate resilient future for Caribbean SIDS.


The damages caused over the last five years by more frequent extreme weather events, and most recently by the category five hurricanes Erma and Maria are harbingers of future climate risks that the region will face. They clearly emphasize the need to accelerate the efforts in the region to build a low carbon and climate resilient future. This will be accomplished through, for example, establishing more secure shelters, smart hospitals, more resilient water and electrical distribution systems, ports and airports and their supporting infrastructure and safer and more secure housing stock in the region.


The recent study just completed by Caribbean scientists on the challenges to be faced in a 1.5 degree warmer world point to the urgent need to act now in building resilience. In the present Business As Usual (BAU) scenario the 1.5 degree target will be reached by the mid 2020s. The studies also reveal that the region will face devastating and unprecedented risks should the warming reach 2 or 2.5 degrees. We are reminded that on our present track global temperatures will rise by about 3.0 degrees or more by the end of this century.


An early start of implementation of these efforts is imperative if the immediate short term needs of the countries devastated by Erma and Maria are to be met. In the longer term efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on food security, coastal erosion, water resources, etc in the region must also be addressed.


The revised Regional Framework for Achieving Sustainable Development Resilient to Climate Change and its Implementation Plan are available for immediate implementation. The strategy and its implementation plan provide the guidance for a risk-informed development for securing a resilient future for CARICOM SIDS. This, however, can only be accomplished if the resources, both financial and human, are available. Most importantly there must be a supportive and enabling environment.


It is my sincere hope that through the ensuing discussions a path will be developed to address the structured response to building a more resilient Caribbean by identifying the resources required to support the long overdue responses.