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Posted: Thursday 4 July, 2024 at 12:58 PM

CARICOM Day reflection highlights importance of unity in the face of climate challenges

By: Jermine Abel,

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts -- AS the region celebrates another CARICOM Day, it comes against the backdrop of Hurricane Beryl, which has devastated several islands and continues to churn in the Caribbean Sea. The swift response by member states of the Caribbean Community underscores the importance of the bloc's unity.


    The hurricane caused significant damage to houses and infrastructure across Barbados, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, CARICOM member states quickly responded, providing much-needed aid and assistance. 


    Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago have shipped aid to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. Several regional and international agencies have also started to provide assistance.


    Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, during her speech recognizing the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Caribbean Community, stated that a Category 5 hurricane this early in the season is “a frightening start to what is forecast to be a very active hurricane season.”


    “CARICOM states have come together and are providing urgent support to each other as we seek to recover and rebuild. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and national disaster management agencies, which together coordinate the emergency assessment and response across the region; the Regional Security System (RSS); and the regional private sector, including the CARICOM Private Sector Organization Inc. (CPSO), have all been rallying to address the needs of those impacted so far, while others stand ready to assist in different ways. I urge that you extend urgent care and assistance to each other in your communities, particularly to the elderly and very young,” Barnett said.


    Regional leaders have emphasized the region's vulnerability to climate change over the last several years, highlighting its life-changing effects. Hurricane Beryl escalated from a strong tropical storm to a major Category 5 hurricane in mere hours.


    CDEMA confirmed at least three deaths resulting from the hurricane on Thursday morning. Two deaths were reported on Carriacou, and one on mainland Grenada. Earlier this week, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves confirmed one death due to the storm.


    Dr. Barnett noted that the severity of the hurricane underlines the urgency of ongoing calls to the international community to take action in line with previously agreed climate change commitments. “The excessive heat experienced earlier this year has warmed the sea, threatening vulnerable marine ecosystems and fuelling storms such as Beryl, and others that are likely to come during this hurricane season, which is still in its early stages.  The urgency of keeping 1.5° within reach is clear. Our vulnerable states, which do not cause climate change, continue to bear the disproportionate burden of its consequences. The socioeconomic destruction caused by the extreme intensity of the weather systems that are strengthened by climate change, result in devastating consequences on the lives and livelihoods of our people."


    The region continues to produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions but remains on the frontlines of climate change, susceptible to major hurricanes and rising sea levels.


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