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Remarks by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States at the Climate Financing Workshop

Remarks delivered by Keith E. Nichols of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

15, 16 February, 2011

Bay Gardens Hotel

Rodney Bay

Saint Lucia


OECS societies can be broadly characterized as small open economies that are largely service oriented and resource-based, with varying levels of poverty and inequality, low levels of social protection, significant external international migratory flows, and significant levels of social exclusion. They are also societies facing serious challenges in the interaction between the human population and the environment that sustains them.

It is also a recognised fact that the countries of the OECS have a heightened vulnerability to many of the economic and environmental pressures that are evolving globally.  This vulnerability, coupled with unique natural and cultural assets and inherent social strengths presents a special urgency to the pursuit of sustainable development goals within the region.

The underlying stressors are exacerbated by the impacts of extreme weather events and shifting profiles of our biological systems that are spawned by climate change.  The reality is that a thorough understanding of these changes is critical if we are to be able to respond adequately to secure the resilience of our people, especially in light of the meager resources available to support an adaptation course of action.

In 2008, a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute calculated that the Caribbean region could lose up to 22 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2100 if no specific adaptation and mitigation actions are taken to address the impacts of climate change.  Such a “business as usual” scenario could cause OECS States like Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis to lose at least 75 per cent of their GDP by 2100.  This could not be a better reason for addressing adaptation requirements.   One approach to building resilience is through a dynamic and coherent policy framework that integrates sectoral actions at regional and national levels to address the current and future impacts of climate change and climate variability.

In countries such as those of the OECS, the interruption of the production of goods and services can be seriously devastating particularly in an environment where a few large sectors dominate the economic landscape. This pattern of development suggests that these societies are confronted with the impacts of climate change and climate variability with considerable disadvantages, hence the urgency to address the environmental, social and economic dimensions of climate change and in a manner that integrates all responses.

The consequences of climate change and climate variability for the region will make it increasingly difficult for us to respond to the challenges of vulnerability and social exclusion in the pursuit of poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs

During the course of the last couple of years and as part of the development of reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) OECS Member States have demonstrated a profound appreciation of the need for transformational strategies in all areas of their economies and most importantly in a governance structure that is fully responsive to the demands of adaptation.

The literature is replete with information on the impacts of climate change on small island States such as those of the OECS, and while our technical personnel are perhaps familiar with the many issues facing us, we have not yet penetrated the consciousness of many of our people, far less that of the vulnerable communities in the region.  Information sharing and public education are therefore crucial elements of our adaptation efforts.

It is also suggested that climate change will affect goals related to peace, migration and good governance, as it adds stress to social cohesion in vulnerable democracies in many parts of the world.  In this region, as is found elsewhere, the populations most affected by low rates of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will also be those most affected by climate change. This increases the urgency for the immediate inclusion of climate issues into our development planning.

Recognising the complexities of the aforementioned impacts, our responses to these changes must be secured in a foundation of governance that mainstreams our adaptive responses across all sectors and all segments of society.  Capacities in public institutions and sectors must therefore be strengthened such that the transformational policies and actions will redound to the ability of populations to adapt while improving livelihoods and the quality of life at the same time.

The key to the transformation lies in the availability of the required resources.  The Director General of the OECS Secretariat has emphasised that “access to the requisite funding, technical assistance and technologies are absolutely vital if developing countries, such as those of the OECS, are to advance towards the greening of their economies and concomitantly, to diversify their energy sectors towards renewable energy and energy efficiency.”  She stresses that “access to new, additional, predictable and adequate sources of financing for development is crucial if OECS leaders are to continue in their efforts to build resilience to climate variability and ecological destruction.”

Our experiences with recent climate related events have demonstrated a clear need for a total revamping of our planning and development mechanisms, if we are to build resilience to the impacts of these events:

  • Our construction standards must be reviewed;
  • A revision possibly and more stringent application of building codes will need to be undertaken;
  • The allocation of space for development will need clinical evaluation before permits for use are awarded;
  • Re-engineering and relocating public infrastructure such as health centers and roads will be vital to ensuring robust communications networks;
  • The relocation of settlements to safer areas will become an imperative:
  • A repositioning of the financial services sector is absolutely essential as is that of the food production sector.
  • Most importantly, our use of land as we know it must change if we are to survive the ravages of storms and related events; but all this is only possible if our people are informed and educated to ensure their full participation.

These are just a few of the critical changes that must be employed if we are to succeed in building our resilience.  All this is only possible if policy and legal instruments as well as institutional frameworks are adjusted to fully accommodate the transformation course of action.

The coming into force of the “Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing an OECS Economic Union”   marks a significant milestone in the history of the OECS, as that instrument is expected to engender a deeper integration of our nations at a regional level by creating a single financial and economic space.  Notably, paramount to this treaty, is the need for us to conserve our natural capital which is key to our continued financial and economic growth.

Our commitment to climate change adaptation is embedded in this historic Treaty, with Member States agreeing to work individually and jointly to implement shared goals for environmental management, and to “incorporate the objectives, perspectives, resources, knowledge and talents of all of society in environmental management”. This also comes with a commitment to “long-term protection and sustained productivity of the region’s natural resource base and of the ecosystem services it provides” and a commitment to “ensure that the natural resources of our States contribute optimally (and equitably) to economic, social and cultural development”.   Member State obligations are further articulated in the St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS (SGD), the latter itself being fully embedded in the Protocol on Economic Union of the New Treaty.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I close, let me take this opportunity to extend to the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, our deepest appreciation for their invaluable contribution of both human and financial resources, to this workshop.

The stark reality is that our chances of success are possible only if the resources from the various climate financing instruments and other sources are made readily available to support timely and proactive interventions aimed at building our resilience to the impacts of climate change and climate variability.  This is absolutely critical, because as aptly put by the former Minister of Environment of Grenada at a meeting held in mid 2011 in that Member State, and I quote, adaptation becomes not an end in itself but a long-term life strategy for our nations.

Thank you.

Category/ies:Regional News, Regional Speeches.
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