Natural disasters costing Caribbean a pretty penny

CDB consultant, Dr. Yves Robert Personna

–as much as an estimated US$352M per episode

JUST as one was beginning to suspect, scientists now rate the Caribbean as being among the most disaster-prone regions in the world.
“Hydro-meteorological and hydro-climatic hazards occur frequently and have resulted in economic and social dislocation, loss of life, property and livelihoods,” says Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)’s Dr. Yves Robert Personna.

“For the period of 1950-2014, the total damage resulting from tropical storms and hurricanes was estimated at US$52B for 148 disasters. That means US$352M on average per disaster,” he told participants gathered on Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel, here, for the opening of a two-day climate-oriented workshop being hosted by the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF).

What’s more, Dr. Personna says that with climate variability and change predicted to increase the intensity of those events, this means that more significant negative impacts will be inflicted on the Caribbean, particularly on climate-sensitive sectors such as tourism, agriculture and water.
He sees as the only way out of this predicament is for the relevant authorities to take urgent action.

“Equipping policy planners,practitioners in climate-sensitive sectors and the most vulnerable communities with early climate and weather information and advisories to anticipate climate-related shocks and changes is an urgent priority,” Dr Personna said.
Noting that strengthening the climate resilience of Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) is a priority of its work programme, Dr Personna said the CDB has long developed partnerships with the development community to mobilise and facilitate access to climate finance resources to help member countries implement climate mitigation and adaption initiatives.

He said that between 2012 and 2016, the CDB’s climate finance resources totalled about US$304M, of which amount US$130M is in concessional loans, US$89M in grants, and US$85M in regular loans.
Dr. Personna said that since the approval of the CDB’s Climate Resilience Strategy 2012-2017, 58 per cent of its projects have included either Climate Change adaptation or mitigation elements in climate-sensitive sectors such as water, education, agriculture and physical infrastructure.

In 2015, for instance, climate financing represented 13 per cent of the total CDB project financing, while in 2016, the CDB approved some US$50M for projects, with explicit climate resilience and sustainable energy actions.
For 2017, the CDB has provided some US$10M in technical assistance to build technical capacity and support climate-resilience initiatives at the national and regional levels.

And in an effort to enhance the Caribbean’s resilience to hydro-meteorological and climatic events, Dr. Personna said the CDB has also been working with national and regional organisations such as the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), through various programmes, to improve weather and climate forecasting, and develop climate products and services tailored to meet the needs of end-users in all climate-sensitive sectors.

A case in point, he said, is the current workshop, the objective of which is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and information on the development and delivery of climate services to the water and agriculture sectors.
This support to the CariCOF initiative is part of the CDB-funded project, “Enhancing Weather and Climate Early Warning Systems and Impacts-Based Forecasting Platforms in the Caribbean”.

The financing, he said, is provided under the African Caribbean Pacific-European Union-Caribbean Development Bank Natural Disaster Risk Management in CARIFORUM Countries Programme, the objective of which is to reduce the vulnerability of the CDB’s participating BMCs to long-term impacts of natural hazards, including the potential impacts of climate change, thereby achieving national and regional sustainable development and poverty reduction goals.