Every year at the same time, the Caribbean region faces a cycle of hurricanes, which in recent years have evolved in force and frequency due to climate change. For this reason, the region was chosen to launch an initiative for universal access to storm early warning, one of the most effective climate adaptation measures.

The plan aims to protect every citizen on the planet from future disasters by 2027.

The Caribbean region is the second most prone to hurricanes. The initiative is a great tool for climate change adaptation.

Every year at the same time, the Caribbean region faces a hurricane cycle, which in recent years has evolved in force and frequency due to climate change. For this reason, the region was chosen to launch an initiative for universal access to storm early warning, one of the most effective climate adaptation measures.
Less than half of the Least Developed Countries and only one third of Small Island Developing States have a multi-hazard early warning system.

That is why UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched in November the Action Plan for the Early Warning for All Initiative, to be implemented between 2023 and 2027, with an initial investment of some US$ 3.1 billion.

In fulfilment of that call, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and St. Lucia Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre on Wednesday (9) spearheaded efforts to deliver on the initiative in the Caribbean.

Life is not seen in speeches

“Disasters remind us that we are all citizens of the world, whether we like it or not,” said Mottley

Mottley hosted the first regional launch of the initiative in Barbados, while requesting stronger global partnerships and the cooperation of civil society to ensure the initiative’s success.

Mottley, a well-known climate change advocate, stressed that “life is not seen from speeches on a platform, but life is experienced on a daily basis (…) We are global citizens and everything is interconnected. We need to work together at all levels, to have more strategic leadership. Disasters speak only one language: destruction”.

The event, held at UN House, brought together regional leaders and key global officials in support of hazard early warning systems.

“The Caribbean region is blessed with immense natural beauty, but it is considered a global hotspot for natural disasters,” said Pierre, during a virtual address in which he emphasised the fact that the Caribbean region is the second most disaster-prone region in the world.

In 2021, the Caribbean faced the fourth most severe hurricane season in the region’s recorded history, with 21 storms, seven of them hurricanes.

UNICEF/Ruiz Sotomayor

Hurricane Iota caused destruction and flooding across Nicaragua, leaving thousands homeless.

Adapting to climate change

The prime minister also noted that early warning systems not only save lives, but also provide great economic benefits. “They are seen as the low-hanging fruit for climate change adaptation because they are relatively cheap compared to the cost of poor planning,” she noted.

However, only 30 per cent of the Caribbean is covered by effective multi-risk early warning systems.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, through a video address, delivered a clear message that this must change.

It is not a privilege but a right

“Every person in the Caribbean, in Small Island Developing States and around the world must be protected by an effective multi-hazard early warning system. This is not a privilege, but a right to be enjoyed by everyone on earth,” she said.

The UN leader noted that the Early Warning for All Initiative will seek to fill gaps in the four key pillars of early warning systems:

– Understanding Disaster Risk
– Monitoring and forecasting
– Communication
– Preparedness and response capacity

To achieve this, the UN aims to raise US$3.1 billion.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said, however, that support must go beyond finance. “It is also about transferring technology and experience,” she said, while stressing the need for better data to guide implementation.
Mizutori said the Caribbean was ideal for the first regional launch of the Initiative because of the strength of its regional organisations, such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

Chair Costa Rica

Hurricane Otto in 2016 caused severe environmental and economic damage to Costa Rica. Damage to infrastructure and agricultural production exceeded 236 billion colones ($420 million at current exchange rates).

Caribbean leadership

Carla Barnett, secretary general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), delivered a recorded message in which she offered the multilateral organisation’s support, calling the Initiative

“a key adaptive response to the failure so far to limit global emissions to a level that keeps global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels”.

The CARICOM official said the region has been bearing the brunt of the impact of global warming and commended the leadership shown by Caribbean leaders in initiating the implementation of this plan in the Caribbean.

“In St. Vincent and the Grenadines we clearly saw the enormous benefits of multi-hazard early warning in the run-up to the eruption of La Soufrière. Despite the enormous damage to infrastructure, early warning and action saved lives,” he stressed.

The UN’s top representative in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, welcomed the launch of the initiative.

Trebucq noted that, fortunately, multi-hazard early warning systems have progressed in the Caribbean, but pointed out that while most countries have the technical capabilities to monitor and forecast hydro-meteorological hazards and issue warnings, the case is very different when looking at existing capacities for geological, biological and technological hazards.

Trebucq organised a panel discussion during the event, in which Mizutori was joined by Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO); Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO); Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Gerard Howe, Chair of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; and Shajunee Gumbs, CDM Youth Ambassador from St. Kitts and Nevis.

The original article can be found here