A new session of the Grenada Parliament began on Monday with the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell administration emphasising the need to build resilience in an era of climate change.
Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade delivered the traditional Throne Speech which is written by government to a new session of Parliament at Mt. Wheldale, overlooking the capital city.
In outlining the priorities of the government, she said that urgent and decisive actions are required to make the environment, the people and the local economy more resilient to the increasingly grim and devastating impacts of climate.
She said as a result, the government, which controls all 15 seats in the Parliament, will during the parliamentary term focus on building resilience, advancing social development and transforming the local economy.
“These priorities are framed within the context of my government’s medium-term agenda that is being prepared for the period 2019 to 2021, which will anchor a whole-of-government approach to development planning, and will guide my government’s strategic development interventions over the medium term,” she told legislators.
Dame Cecile stated that Grenada, like other small island states, is highly vulnerable to natural hazards and is among those countries at greatest risk to the impacts of climate change.
“Vivid images of the utter devastation wreaked upon some of our neighbouring islands last year, by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, will be forever etched in our memories,” she said, noting that last August the island was severely affected by the heavy rains that caused widespread and massive flooding.
She said Grenada and Caribbean countries have also had to deal with earthquakes and while there had been no loss of lives, “those natural events brought to the fore once again, the daunting reality that climate change is real and its impact intensifying.
“The experts have warned that more intense hurricanes, heavier rainfall, hotter spells and rising sea levels are expected for the Caribbean region,’ Dame Cecile said, adding that the government will be intensifying its efforts in spearheading all activities aimed at making Grenada a climate-resilient country.
This, according to the Governor General will include formulating and executing strategic policies and programmes that are geared towards protecting the oceanic, marine, coastal and land environments; improving drainage; and strengthening disaster preparedness and management systems, among other policies.
“Building a more resilient nation will ensure that families, communities, businesses and the government can better prepare, manage and recover faster from, extreme climate-related events. The first phase of the ban on styrofoam products is the outcome of collective action towards the promotion of environmental sustainability and the attainment of the resilient nation we aim to be,” she said.
She stressed that government‘s climate resilience agenda is one that is grounded in sound policy, developed through extensive national stakeholder consultation and that the recently-approved National Adaptation Plan and National Determined Contributions, identified Grenada’s climate change adaptation and mitigation needs.
She said the government has also approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to conduct a Climate Change Policy Assessment that “would seek to examine our plans to manage climate change, from the perspective of its macroeconomic implications and suggest macro-relevant reforms that could strengthen the likelihood of success”.
Dame Cecile noted that while government has recorded some successes and has utilised the funds provided by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), it will step up its efforts at climate screening all public investment projects to ensure that new physical infrastructure is climate change and disaster-resilient.
“This will ensure that public infrastructure is built to withstand major hurricanes, heavy rains and floods. My government will also ahead with its plans to improve Grenada’s energy security and diversify our energy mix, through the use of renewable energy,” she said.
The Governor General pointed out that work is ongoing on Grenada’s geothermal development and to date, over two million US dollars have been provided in financial and technical assistance by the governments of New Zealand and Japan to assist in investigating the island’s geothermal potential for electricity production.
“Through the Sustainable Energy for the Eastern Caribbean programme, economically viable investments will be made in renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels. To date, energy audits have been completed for fourteen public buildings and the search for a project manager has commenced for the investment phase of this initiative.”
She said another ongoing initiative is the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, which is aimed at supporting Grenada’s advance to inclusive low-emission, risk-resilient development.
Dame Cecile said that this will be achieved by improving “our energy security and integrating medium to long-term planning for adaptation to climate change”.
“The partnership provided funding and is supporting the implementation of eight climate change adaptation pilots in the areas of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Water Resource Management, Climate-Smart Resilient Infrastructure and Renewable Energy.”
She said the government will continue to make climate change information available and mainstreamed into its decision and policy-making processes.
“It will also continue raising environmental awareness in our communities, our schools, our churches, our workplaces and the wider society. Indeed, the protection of our environment and the building of resilience is everyone’s business, not just the business of my Government.
“In this regard, the private sector, including the financial sector, must also play its part in promoting an environmentally-conscious and climate-resilient Grenada. Financial lending institutions can channel resources to sectors and industries that can help to promote climate resilience and energy efficiency. They are therefore well-placed to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, and by extension, promote environmental sustainability,” the Governor General added.
Regarding the need to advance social development, the Head of State said that the government will give more prominence to building social resilience, by expanding the reach and enhancing the impact of its social policies and programmes.
“In this regard, greater emphasis will be placed on providing adequate psycho-social support systems to help individuals and communities cope better in the event of natural disasters.
More focus will also be given to protecting and empowering vulnerable and at-risk households and communities. This will be done by systematic and strategic targeting of social protection and safety net programmes so that the neediest benefit the most.”
She said advancing social development would also require the mainstreaming of gender equality and social inclusion issues in decision and policy making, to which the government is firmly committed.
Dame Cecile said that while the economy has shown growth in 29 of the past 38 years, the island’s home grown structural adjustment programme has ensured a robust economy in the past five years.
“Indeed, macroeconomic stability has been restored, our public finances have improved and continue to do so, and our public financial management and accountability systems have been strengthened.
“Our signature Fiscal Responsibility Law has ushered in a new fiscal era, one where strong fiscal discipline has become the norm and where the management of public finances is systematically monitored and reported to the Parliament by an independent Fiscal Responsibility Oversight Committee.”
But she acknowledged that the government is mindful that transforming the economy to one that is more dynamic, diversified, competitive, innovative, and prosperous, will not happen overnight.
“Economic transformation is a long-term affair, but with the right foundation in place, the process towards its attainment can be better accomplished,” she said, adding that an immediate priority of the government will be the diligent pursuit of projects that have the potential to contribute to Grenada’s economic transformation in the long term.
She said four of these projects have already been identified and the details will be provided when the 2019 budget is presented.