United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative for Jamaica, Denise Antonio, says the Caribbean “is not helpless” when it comes to knowledge and expertise to address the issue of climate change.
“There is a lot of significant solutions that are being done to mitigate the impact of climate change,” Antonio noted.
She was speaking during the UNDP’s semi-virtual Resilient Series Fireside Chat at the organisation’s country office in Kingston, on June 1.
Antonio said building resilience and properly planning for disasters “is very critical [now] more than ever, as climate change continues to affect the frequency and intensity of weather events.”
She pointed out that in 2020, there were 416 notable natural disaster events incurring an estimated US$268 billion in damage and losses.
“According to the [International Monetary Fund] IMF data, between 1950 and 2016, there were 511 disasters worldwide, and 324 of them happened here in the Caribbean, killing about 250,000 people and affecting more than 24 million people through injury, loss of lives, loss of homes and of their livelihoods,” Antonio informed.
“So, our region is seven times more likely to be hit by natural disasters and sustain damage to [gross domestic product] GDP, six times higher than any other large nation in the world,” she added.
Antonio emphasised the importance of innovation and digitisation, and using data to drive policies.
“We have to have data and we know that there is a dearth of data in the Caribbean; so when you want to do reports, you can’t find [the] data. So, data would drive a lot of the work we do,” she pointed out.
She also called for the fostering of public-private partnerships to enhance risk mitigation.
“You need to have public-private risk mitigation. You need to have disaster response, and this is continuity. You need to modernise [and] implement stringent building code requirements,” she added.
The fireside chat focused on Jamaica’s telecommunications best practice for disaster preparedness and hurricane resilience, Bermuda’s 300-year hurricane resilient culture, and provided updates on Dominica’s vision to become the first climate-resilient nation on earth.
Antonio, who also represents Belize, Bermuda, Cayman islands, The Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands, said the forum presented an opportunity to hear about the best practices and what other countries in the Caribbean are doing in relation to the issue of climate change resilience.
Other speakers were Rozy M. Azhar, permanent secretary in the Bermudian Ministry of Home Affairs; Richard Thompson, acting director-general of Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM); and Samuel Carrette, resilience planning and development consultant at the Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD).