By Laurent Lamothe
On Sunday 12 January 2020, Haitians remember the 2010 ‘Armageddon’ of an earthquake that set us back 50 years. The devastation to infrastructure was catastrophic, and the loss of life devastating. Our experience in Haiti in 2010 saw us tackle the mammoth task of re-housing 1.5 million people, and rebuilding critical infrastructure with very limited resources.
In remembering this day, I believe as global citizens, we no longer have the luxury of debating whether climate change exists or not. The effects, from long periods of drought, more frequent wildfires and loss of sea ice to an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms, are being felt around the world with an intensity that highlight the immediate need for immediate action.
Currently, Australia is battling catastrophic wildfires that since September, 17.9 million acres of Australia have burned in one of the country’s worst fire seasons on record. A staggering 500 million animals are estimated dead in Australia’s fires.
2019, Cyclone Idai tore through South Africa, taking the lives of hundreds and injuring and displacing thousands. According to the UN natural disaster affected more than 1.9 million people across the region, most requiring humanitarian assistance.
In the Horn of Africa and in West Africa, droughts and flooding are frequent and intense. In the Sahel region, prolonged droughts exacerbate desertification, while the rise in sea levels in the coastal cities of West Africa, from Ghana to Benin, is ravaging farming and fishing communities.
Floods in South Asia have taken more than 100 lives and annually wildfires burn across Australia. In Europe and parts of the US, temperatures have reached record highs.
Besides its captivating beauty, one thing Caribbean nations have in common is vulnerability to frequent and costly natural disasters. In a study conducted CRED between 1994 and 2013, which included 6,873 natural disasters worldwide, it found that natural disasters in the Caribbean claimed 1.35 million lives or almost 68,000 lives on average each year, and affected 218 million people per annum during this 20-year period.
No region is immune, and it is for this reason that we need to see nations group together to tackle the impact of climate change.
In 2017, along with fellow politicians and philanthropists, the world’s first “Climate-Smart Zone” and Accelerator was established. The Accelerator has created an unprecedented coalition including 26 countries and over 40 private and public sector partners which will implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy based on climate-smart infrastructure.
The Caribbean Accelerator has a vision which builds from the strategies of regional governments and agencies, including CARICOM and OECS. Although newly launch, it has already started to lay the foundations for success with initial Caribbean Climate-Smart projects. Notably, the Inter-American Development Bank announced that it will partner with the Accelerator to program and implement the $1 billion in funds that it pledged at President Macron’s Paris One Planet summit.
As a not-for-profit organization, a climate-smart zone modernizes digital, physical and social infrastructure to address the challenges of climate change, and secure a low carbon future for the region. Ultimately it is able to build more resilient countries, cities and industries through private and public partnerships. This model can be replicated in other regions, and regional leaders should consider the opportunities and solutions that this type of initiative could bring to its region.
I believe that through partnerships, such as the one formed in the Caribbean, other regions around the world will the ability to transform communities and economies to better withstand the effects of climate change. Because these partnerships present the opportunity to fast-track climate action and economic growth, through sustainable development.
For more information visit https://www.caribbeanaccelerator.org/home