In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland spoke this week of a Regenerative Development Taskforce aimed at bringing climate change and its effects on the Caribbean to the forefront.
Scotland, who is a native of the Nature Isle, Dominica which was recently decimated by Hurricane Maria, told the STAR about the organisation’s desires to facilitate better preparedness and disaster response in the region. For the Commonwealth, she noted that concerns related to climate change were not new, but the situation had recently intensified.
“We can reasonably anticipate that these sort of events are going to keep on happening with greater frequency and potentially even greater ferocity because of the warming of the ocean,” Scotland stated.
While hurricanes are not new to the Caribbean region, systems of this magnitude and frequency are unprecedented – with the two biggest storms for the season thus far occurring just weeks apart and multiple systems churning in the Atlantic Ocean simultaneously. The current status quo is particularly alarming as now, all forms of relief are required for not just one country but several. Scotland stressed, “Between Irma and Maria it has
decimated so many in our region. So we’ve got difficulties in Anguilla, Tortola, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas; the
whole of Barbuda has been evacuated. This scale of devastation is very, very new to us.”
The Commonwealth’s Regenerative Model of Development has been in the works for nearly a year now. However, the recent surge in monster storms has called for the hastening of co-ordination and contingency planning. “After Erika (a tropical storm which tore across Dominica in August 2015) we were talking … about how we might be able to create a climate change disaster relief tool kit, but all those things we now need to turbo charge because we know that time is of the essence,” Scotland explained.
Ultimately, the taskforce aims to align several organisations including private sector and UN agencies to address climate change and to pinpoint how best the region can alleviate the disastrous consequences of being on “the frontline of the war on climate change”, as Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit put it at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
With everyone on board, the hope is to facilitate an “integrated and interdependent mechanism that will work” – one that will prevent overlapping and duplication of climate change advocacy and disaster preparedness and response efforts.
“We are just about to publish a pamphlet on how this Regenerative Development is going to work and we’ve been working on it for a whole year,” Ms Scotland went on to say about the progress that has already been made through the project.
At the Finance Ministers’ meeting slated to take place at the beginning of October in Washington, followed by the Law Ministers’ meeting in The Bahamas, the Commonwealth has plans to put climate change on the agenda. Scotland hopes that discussions can be had regarding the potential uses of the Climate Change Finance hub in Mauritius and the benefits of working with the Climate Change Centre in Belize.
Unable to fly into Dominica due to army and relief aircrafts receiving priority over commercial airlines, the Secretary-General, who has directly spoken to Prime Minister Skerrit post-Hurricane Maria, expressed deep sympathies for the current state of her island home. She also insisted that for plans to be successful pertaining to the sustenance of life in the Caribbean, as well as reducing the impacts of climate change in the upcoming years, co-ordination is paramount. Scotland proclaimed, “It’s going to take all of us working together in partnership.”