The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, affirmed today that small island developing states will not achieve the sustainable development committed to in the 2030 Agenda if they do not find an effective way to adapt to climate change.
The senior United Nations official participated today, via teleconference, in the special session “Pathways to resilience in climate-affected SIDS: A Forward-Looking Resilience Building Agenda. Promises, results and next steps,” organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in New York, and led by Inga Rhonda King, President of ECOSOC, and Luis Alfonso de Alba, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2019 Climate Summit.
During her remarks, Alicia Bárcena said it is essential that the issue of the resilience of small island developing states (SIDS) be on the General Assembly’s agenda in 2019. Climate change in the Caribbean is very real, she stressed, adding that the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in seven of the countries most affected by the storms exceeded $6.9 billion dollars. This estimate does not include islands like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Cuba, which were also gravely affected, she said.
She recalled that, in 2017, ECLAC implemented the Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) methodology in five Caribbean countries that suffered major impacts, and it continues to offer support through technical advice on reconstruction and rehabilitation.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary noted that the DaLA methodology is not just an external evaluation but rather a tool for developing countries’ capacities to evaluate on a permanent and endogenous basis their risks and financing alternatives with the aim of reducing their vulnerability, strengthening their institutions, and gathering and analyzing relevant data and information.
“It is true that, for the international community in general, measures for climate change mitigation are urgent and necessary, but for the SIDS, the implementation of adaptation measures is an imperative,” she stated.
Bárcena added that Caribbean countries face an additional challenge: they are among the most indebted nations in the world with a total debt burden that has risen to $52 billion dollars (a little over 70% of subregional GDP).
For that reason, she indicated, ECLAC is promoting the Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap Initiative, a measure that “represents our contribution to addressing the stifling debt of Caribbean economies and their need to generate resources to finance stronger resilience.”
This is an innovative strategy that seeks to transform the subregion’s debt into a source of investment in resilience, while also revitalizing growth and promoting the transformation of its economies through investment in adaptation projects and green industries, she explained.
ECLAC’s most senior representative also highlighted the “Caribbean First” strategy, which seeks to call attention to the subregion and is being implemented in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.
“Caribbean First is ECLAC’s renewed determination to promote a more effective defense on behalf of the countries of that region, taking advantage of the international community’s good will, solidarity and support,” she concluded.