“Lives have been lost; homes and infrastructure destroyed; economies reduced to tatters; years of development wiped out; and, in the case of Barbuda, an entire island evacuated and rendered uninhabited and uninhabitable for the first time in 300 years,” said St. Kitts and Nevis’ Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Anthony Brantley in addressing the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.
“It is worthy of note that the carnage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria took but a few days,” he added. “In just a few days and in many countries a mere few hours, the world had front row seats to the most horrific destruction ever seen in our beloved Caribbean region.
“We have, in this very Chamber, heard the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda speak solemnly to the utter destruction of Barbuda. We have only today, stood in anguished silence, as the Prime Minister of Dominica recounted the near total destruction of his beautiful country and the tragic loss of life,” Brantley continued. “Their first-hand accounts would move even the coldest hearts to tears.”
He said the time has now come for the world to treat these phenomena not as natural disasters but as the man-made disasters, stating that the science is irrefutable.
“Our oceans continue to get warmer due to our continued abuse of our Planet Earth,” he said. “Warmer oceans feed and create horrific storms, such as Irma and Maria. Now, more than ever, we bear witness to the compelling need to support the call for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and all other actions and behaviors that aggravate the effects of climate change.”
Brantley said climate change for the Caribbean is not a matter for academic rumination, stating that the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Caribbean, in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, is “stark testimony that climate change is not only real but poses an existential threat to our people, our countries and our civilization.”
He said while the world has deliberated, negotiated, made commitments and signed multiple agreements, most recently the Paris Agreement, “the the time for more urgent, concrete, tangible and collective action is now.
“It is the most cruel irony of our times that those of us in the Caribbean least responsible for climate change are the ones most disastrously affected by it,” the St. Kitts and Nevis Foreign Affairs Minister said. “We are not major polluters, but we bear the brunt of the effects of such pollution.
“In every sense, small vulnerable States, like Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis continue to be asked, by the world, to cash a cheque we did not write,” he added.
In order to attain a sustainable planet, Brantley said those most responsible for climate change, through their greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally harmful practices, “must shoulder the responsibility of arresting and ameliorating the consequences.
“We cannot continue to abuse our Planet and expect to remain unscathed,” he said. “The people of St Kitts and Nevis call upon the global community to pledge itself to pursuing renewable energy with greater alacrity. We must invest in better and stronger homes and buildings. We must grow our economies to allow us greater financial resilience and flexibility.
“The people of St Kitts and Nevis and of our Caribbean deserve and demand the same fundamental right to life and the security of our way of life as others anywhere else,” he declared. “I ask the global community to lend their collective voices so that together we can create a glorious symphony for change. That change which ensures a sustainable planet for all.”
In this regard, Brantley called on the community of nations to mobilize the necessary resources to ensure the speedy reconstruction of those countries devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Brantley said St. Kitts and Nevis also “condemns unreservedly the sterile analysis of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] per capita, which has been used by international agencies to tell our small island developing States that we are now middle and high income countries and, therefore, locked out of accessing developmental assistance or affordable financing.”
He said it is “a travesty and a tragedy for the world community to witness such destruction caused by forces entirely outside the control of Caribbean nations and then refuse to allow those nations access to the necessary resources to rebuild.
“There has to be a more sensible and just model which takes into account the special vulnerability of small island States,” he said, adding that St Kitts. and Nevis joins others in demanding that a vulnerability index be developed as part of the matrix for accessing developmental assistance.
“We of the Caribbean already caught in the debt trap cannot after each disaster be forced to borrow commercially at high interest rates to rebuild destroyed lives,” Brantley said. “This is and must be a moral imperative for us all in the wake of the destruction seen in the Caribbean.
“And rebuild we must,” he continued. “Countries, such as Dominica, have no safe zones or other geographic areas to which populations can be relocated. A hurricane of the scale of Irma and Maria devastates entire countries.
“We of the Caribbean are a proud and resilient people,” he said. “The world must not stand by and allow the evils of climate change to force Caribbean people to become climate refugees. We must rebuild and we require the community of nations to partner with us in this rebuilding effort.”
- Countries: St_Kitts_Nevis