UN-CARICOM High-Level Pledging Conference
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at UN-CARICOM High-Level Pledging Conference “Building a More Climate-Resilient Community”
Good morning Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Like many of you, I have just come back from COP23 in Bonn. I must confess the news on climate change is disappointing. We have learned that our national pledges are insufficient to achieve the overall temperature goal in the Paris Agreement.
Climate change is not a theoretical question for the people of the Caribbean. You live this reality daily. During this current hurricane season, there have been 17 named systems. 10 of them were hurricanes. For the first time, they all occurred one after the other. It featured multiple category 5 hurricanes – which is rare. Hurricanes Maria and Irma made multiple landfalls, with Irma being the strongest hurricane to do so.
Hurricanes are not new. They are accounted for in our earliest historical records. This intensity and frequency is, however, new. And the 2017 season saw some other new realities.
The first is telling – it is the third season in a row to have a storm prior to the official start of the hurricane season.
The second is that it is the costliest season on record with damages estimated at more than US$5 billion. Of course, this does not count the lives and livelihoods lost across the region.
Reports of death and destruction splashed across our screens. The sheer scale of the devastation boggles our imagination. Prime Minister Skerrit, you called it “the front lines of the war on climate change”. And you are right. Nations, both large and small, have been struggling to return some normalcy to the lives of their people.
Our sentiments and well-wishes will not be enough. Our messages of solidarity alone will not do. Right now, it is time for us to act.
As a global family, we have a moral obligation to stand with the people affected. We need to take some key steps. I will highlight three.
First, we must commit support to the rebuilding effort. This should be directed at meeting the immediate needs to restore infrastructure and services. Funding and technical assistance are urgently needed to help the affected countries to get back on their feet. Housing, telecommunications, water and sanitation, healthcare services and education facilities are needed. Let us identify those areas where we can partner up to support the rebuilding.
Second, we need to place an emphasis on resilience. The pledge to rebuild with greater resilience is a necessary one. I commend CARICOM’s goal of becoming the first climate resilient region. We cannot prevent hurricanes or earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions. But we can ensure that both people and communities are better prepared and more resilient.
Third, we must recognize that Small Island Developing States are particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and external shocks. To compound this, Middle Income Small Island Developing States also face inadequate access to grant and concessional funding because of how their development is measured. And I join my voice with the Secretary-General. We should not let the people be punished once by nature and twice by outdated economic policies.
Climate change is not a theoretical question for the people of the Caribbean. You live this reality daily.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
I thank those who have already pledged support and taken action. I encourage all countries and stakeholders to help fund this appeal. In so doing, let us also ensure that the sums pledged are accessible.
The recovery does not only need charitable commitments. There are opportunities for investments and partnerships that will benefit investors and contribute to the long-term sustainable development of these countries.
The need is great and so our support must be greater. The cause is just, so let us do justice with our response.
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