Earlier this year, Cyclone Idai devastated Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe by leaving more than 1,000 people dead, thousands more missing, and damages in the billions. These storms are a reminder of how climate change multiplies the power of natural disasters. Which ultimately has a lasting impact on economies by reducing production and increasing debt burdens.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) should take the Caribbean’s lead in building resilience to mitigate the impact of climate change. Besides its captivating beauty, one thing Caribbean nations have in common is vulnerability to frequent and costly natural disasters. In a study conducted CRED between 1994 and 2013, which included 6,873 natural disasters worldwide. It found that natural disasters in the Caribbean claimed 1.35 million lives during this period.
During my tenure as Prime Minister, Haiti faced a near-impossible task of trying to rebuild the country after the 2010 ‘Armageddon’ of an earthquake that set us back 50 years. The devastation to infrastructure was catastrophic, and the loss of life devastating. Our experience in Haiti in 2010 saw us tackle the mammoth task of re-housing 1.5 million people, and rebuilding critical infrastructure with minimal resources.
In the Caribbean, as with Southern Africa, the challenge is similar, how to implement mitigation strategies that can better prepare countries for natural disasters. We know that climate change dramatically increases the severity of weather conditions. Also, these disasters tend to disproportionately affect the poor, who have a limited ability to cope with the impact. Many of the communities in these regions live in high-risk areas with weak infrastructure. Moreover, the economies rely heavily on sectors sensitive to weather, such as tourism and agriculture, while capacity and resources to manage risk are limited.
It is for this reason that I, along with fellow politicians and philanthropists, established the world’s first “Climate-Smart Zone” and Accelerator. The Accelerator has created an unprecedented coalition which includes 26 countries and over 40 private-public sector partners. The partnerships aim to implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy based on climate-smart infrastructure.
The Caribbean Accelerator has a vision which builds from the strategies of regional governments and agencies, including CARICOM and OECS. Although newly launch, it has already started to lay the foundations for success with initial Caribbean Climate-Smart projects. Notably, the Inter-American Development Bank announced that it would partner with the Accelerator with $1 billion in funds that it pledged at President Macron’s Paris One Planet summit.
As a not-for-profit organisation, a climate-smart zone modernises digital, physical and social infrastructure to address the challenges of climate change, and secure a low carbon future for the region. Ultimately it can build more resilient countries, cities and industries through private and public partnerships. This model could be replicated in other areas, and SADC leaders should consider the opportunities and solutions that this type of initiative could bring to its region.
I believe that through partnerships, such as the one formed in the Caribbean, SADC states would have the ability to transform the economies of the region that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. These partnerships present the opportunity to fast-track climate action and economic growth through sustainable development.
For more information, visit https://www.caribbeanaccelerator.org/home.