Friday 16 November, 2018

Canada to fund climate resilience in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean

Daryl Vaz

Daryl Vaz

A recent call by Cabinet minister Daryl Vaz, for greater financial support for small-island developing states and others that are prone to be affected by climate change, appears to have been answered.

Vaz, who has responsibility for climate change in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, made the call when he addressed world leaders at the recent international climate negotiations held in Bonn, Germany.

On Tuesday, Canada, one of Jamaica's closest international partners, pledged some $100 million to support reconstruction and climate resilience efforts in the Caribbean region over the next five years. The pledge was made at the CARICOM-UN High-Level Pledging Conference in New York. It came against the background of the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season which runs until November 30, but which has already caused significant damage to several Caribbean islands.

While Jamaica was not hit by a hurricane this year, the country has suffered loss of lives and billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure and crops over the years because of increasingly unpredictable weather systems.

In fact, while addressing the Bonn meeting, Vaz pointed to changing precipitation patterns, including extreme rainfall events that have been having devastating impact on Jamaica over the years. He pointed to massive flooding earlier this year, which left over $4 billion in damage and loss nationally.

It is not immediately clear to what extent Jamaica may benefit from the Canadian pledge, which was made by Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development. She said the several category five storms that hit the region have, “reminded the world that these small-island states are on the front-line of climate change.” 

The Canadians noted that Caribbean countries are now seeking assistance from the international community for their immediate reconstruction, and for their climate adaptation needs.

According to a statement issued at the end of the New York conference, Canada’s contribution will help the most vulnerable people, including women and children, to rebuild more resilient communities, so they can be better prepared for natural disasters.

“Particular attention will be given in the coming months to specific projects aimed at reconstructing essential services, improving disaster risk management and emergency preparedness practices, supporting the role of women as leaders in reconstruction, and adopting climate-adaptation measures at the community level,” the statement indicated.

The document outlined that Canada is working together with international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, to mobilise support for reconstruction efforts.

Canada represents several Caribbean nations on the Board of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. At the World Bank annual meetings in October, Canada and participants reaffirmed their solidarity and support for the affected countries and communities.

According to official statistics, an estimated 20,000 children have been affected by the 2017 Caribbean hurricanes. More than 32,000 people have been displaced, with 17,000 people in need of shelter. Additionally, over 1.2 million people have been affected by damage to water infrastructure.

Other critical infrastructure has been significantly damaged, including electrical lines, houses and public buildings, such as government offices, schools and hospitals, as well as private sector structures key to the economy and people's livelihoods.