UN Headquarters

18 September 2017

Remarks to High-Level Event on Hurricane Irma

António Guterres

Thank you to everyone here for your solidarity with the millions of people across the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma.  
Irma killed a relatively small number of people but affected millions, causing massive damage to buildings, infrastructure and agricultural land across 11 islands.
I would like to express my deepest sympathies to those who lost family and friends, and to all those affected across the Caribbean, and also the United States.
I welcome the Regional Response Plan that has been developed with support of national and regional disaster management agencies and I appeal to global solidarity. United Nations agencies and their partners are already putting this plan into action, supporting cash transfers, telecommunications support and the provision of clean water, but much more resources are needed for these and for all other efforts, especially the ones by the countries themselves.
Over the past month, four major Atlantic hurricanes have swept across the ocean. This year’s hurricane season is already the most violent on record, and it will continue until the end of November.
The season fits a pattern: changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery.
Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa.
Reducing carbon emissions must clearly be part of our response, together with adaptation measures. We must be able to bend the emissions curve by 2020. The rise in the surface temperature of the ocean has had an impact on weather patterns; and we must do everything possible to bring it down.
We must also scale up our efforts to reduce risks and vulnerabilities and build resilience.
Unless we get better at preparing for storms, mitigating their effects and recovering from them, they will continue to devastate communities, islands and even whole countries, sending agriculture and economic development into freefall and undoing much of the progress that has been made.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will never be achieved in countries that are constantly battling flood waters and rebuilding flattened infrastructure.
International financial institutions also have an important role to play, and I welcome the participation of the World Bank here today.
We know that risk reduction and preparedness save lives and are extremely cost-effective. The huge discrepancy between the number of people killed in developed and developing countries hit by storms of similar size regularly provides more evidence of this.
In the Caribbean region, even in the face of these violent hurricanes, emergency preparedness and risk reduction efforts undoubtedly saved many lives.
I urge Governments, regional organizations, donors, humanitarian and development partners to continue to build on these efforts, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.
Millions of people across the Caribbean and around the world are counting on us to succeed.
Thank you very much.