PM Mitchell: Frequent natural disasters new normal for the region

The Board of Governors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) began its 48th annual meeting last Wednesday at Grand Anse with Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell warning that natural disasters and hazards associated or linked to climate change is creating a new normal in the region that will require a shift in developmental planning.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

“Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning. In practice, this will require a shift in focus, from sustainable development to climate-smart sustainable development,” Dr. Mitchell told the meeting.

He said that at the macro level, the region must accelerate its transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronise economic development with environmental sustainability.

“Operationally, we must institutionalise climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programmes, of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said, while explaining that it is crucially important that the region invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of the planet earth.

“Adjusting to the new normal and transitioning to a truly resilient Caribbean will also require a new financing architecture. This must not only involve grant funding; but also innovation in lending and insurance mechanisms that are uniquely tailored to our Caribbean realities, and must explicitly consider our inherent vulnerabilities,” said Prime Minister Mitchell, urging the region to intensify its advocacy in this area and to be strategic, skillful and smart about it.

Focusing on the waste disposal practices in the region as an example, the Grenada Prime Minister said that it must be made to conform to the highest environmental standards.

“We must also hasten to reverse our dependence on the use of plastics and styrofoam materials, for example, and start using bio-degradable material,” he said, calling for urgency to enact legislation that will give teeth to and accelerate the region’s adherence to environmental best practices.




The specially invited guests at the Caribbean Development Bank meeting in Grand Anse

Dr. Mitchell also made an impassionate plea for the region to ramp up a coordinated response to climate change, and weather events in the wake of the ravages of the 2017 Hurricane Season.

“What lessons have we learnt from last year? By now, we’ve all internalised the harsh truth that hurricanes Maria and Irma will not be the last intense hurricanes that will hit the region. How then do we adapt to the new normal? Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning. In practice, we’ll require shifting focus from sustainable development to climate smart development. At the macro level, we must accelerate our transition to the green and blue economies and in so doing synchronize economic development with environmental sustainability.”

PM Mitchell also called for climate risk screening of infrastructure.

“We also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate resilient infrastructure. Furthermore, it is crucially important that we invest in climate smart education to entrench a culture of respect for and a preservation of this, our one planet earth”, he said.

Dr. Mitchell also called for the implementation of appropriate legislation to enforce best practices and the better management of marine and coastal environments.

“The new normal and transitioning to a truly resilient Caribbean would also require new financing architecture. This must not only involve grant funding, but also innovation in lending and the insurance mechanisms that are uniquely tailored to our Caribbean realities and must explicitly consider our inherent vulnerabilities. We must therefore, intensify our advocacy in this regard and be strategic, skillful and smart about it.”

In his statement, CDB President, Dr Warren Smith, said that given the increasing frequency and intensity of natural hazard events in the Caribbean, it is imperative that Grenada and the rest of the region embrace a comprehensive package of resilience-building measures that includes macro-economic management and the creation of fiscal buffers.

“Climate-proofing of our critical economic infrastructure; and the creation of a resilient, and reliable inter-island transportation network for the Eastern Caribbean archipelago. Failure to respond comprehensively and expeditiously to these challenges will put paid to our vision of building prosperous societies and halving abject poverty by 2020,” he said.

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