By David Jessop
The 2018 hurricane season is underway and, as the world has been told by planners, governments and donors, this is the year when the Caribbean’s plans for climate resilience need to start kicking in.
Caribbean Intelligence has been following the resilience proposals and we’ve had a quick look at how these plans have been getting under way.
The main regional bank for channelling funding, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), focused on climate resilience at its end-of-May annual meeting. CDB President Warren Smith said: “Our region has had to cope with countless natural disasters and other shocks throughout its history. And we have demonstrated repeatedly our ability to ‘bounce back’ from such disastrous events. However, our responses have been largely reactionary; and the cost of responding has been rising steadily, undermining other efforts to get onto a sustainable development platform.”
He urged regional leaders to climate-proof their countries’ energy systems and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. He added that “the wide-scale adoption of energy-efficiency measures will assist in laying the basis for economic resilience through reductions in the public sector’s expenditure on energy; strengthening the fiscal balance; reducing borrowing requirements; and, as a consequence, reducing the pressure on countries’ foreign reserves”.
At the same CDB conference, officials said that private sector investors would put money into well-structured deals if the region, which has 80 times more sea than land, could create a unified policy for its “blue economy”. The World Bank director for Caribbean countries, Tahseen Sayed, said that the value of global oceans was estimated to be US$24tn and that the blue economy could be “fundamentally central for the Caribbean region’s economic growth”.
The travel industry was optimistic at the end of May about the return to as near normal as possible. In a call-around to industry representatives around the region, Travel Market Report found that Anguilla reported a “wonderfully refreshed product”, 31% of St Maarten’s pre-hurricane hospitality inventory was back on track and 60-70% of restaurants had re-opened on the French side of the island, St Martin.
Dutch St Maarten set up a US$580m St Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund in April, which it is using to “build back better”. Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin told the World Bank that to achieve climate resilience, “We need better processes to ensure that our infrastructure and our houses are rebuilt in a way that can sustain a Category five plus hurricane. For example, our building ordinance is going to change. Many of the wooden structures went down, so we will have to use concrete and replace zinc roofs with concrete roofs. We will also have to rebuild in a manner that is sustainable.”
Puerto Rico’s own problems drew support from the US federal authorities and led to a burgeoning of interest in solar power generation to prevent future long-term outages. New regulations on microgrids (local power grids that allow use of both national grid and independent operation) adopted by the Puerto Rico Energy Commission are already driving new initiatives. With more than 10,000 homes without power eight months after Hurricane Maria, communities are turning to solar panels and other grid arrangements, once they can tap private investment. One such example is the new solar-powered community grid in the small community of Daguao, using solar panels installed on a one-storey community building. Officials are already talking about turning to “island mode” when grid connections with the US mainland go down again.
You didn’t have to have been hit by the big storms of 2017 to know the value of being prepared. Jamaica has signed finance deals for a US$64m solar farm with French renewable power producer Neoen. The Paradise Park project will deliver Jamaica’s cheapest-ever electrical energy.
A report in March by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on the British Caribbean overseas territories said that power had been restored and most hotels and restaurants had been reopened in Anguilla, 70% of power was available in the British Virgin Islands by January and that the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos was “back to normal”. The committee urged the UK to continue pressing for a change in the way aid is distributed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It said that the British government “should press the OECD Development Assistance Committee to bring to an early conclusion its work to develop proposals to reinstate ODA eligibility for states and territories that suffer a persistent drop in per capita income”.
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) reported on a new hurricane-proof and seamless travel experience being offered by the Cayman Islands as destinations seek to entice visitors back after the images of climate-torn islands. The Cayman’s Worry Free Hurricane Guarantee allows cancellations and compensation for visitors whose holidays are cut short by inclement weather, with an additional offer of free replacement stays during the summer of 2018. The director of tourism for the Cayman Islands, Rosa Harris, said the programme offered “our guests a seamless solution for when travel disruptions occur”.
Insurance Journal reported that, despite the 2017 losses, property and casualty insurers in the Caribbean had quickly resolved the high volume of claims. The Journal said that a report of the industry’s year, entitled Caribbean Insurers Well-Capitalised Despite 2017 Hurricane Losses, said the responsiveness of reinsurers in 2017 had been a “demonstration of how these programmes were intended to work”, leaving the industry able to withstand the record-setting impact of the hurricanes.
The issue of resilience shows no sign of falling off the agenda of most rich nations. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played host to Jamaica’s and Haiti’s leaders, as well as leaders from other small island states, at a G7 Summit special Outreach Session in June. Canada also announced the appointment of a new ambassador for climate change at the start of June 2018.
The Conversation – The new hurricane season jeopardises Caribbean recovery
Dominica News Online - Beyond hurricanes, how do we finance our resilience?