As the world sharpened its focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it must recognize the stakes for small island developing States, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Dominica she said at the United Nations’ General Assembly’s seventy-first session over the weekend, noting that the 2030 Agenda must drive action on climate change, environmental protection and access to clean energy, all critical concerns for Caribbean countries.
“Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals is not about ticking boxes, but about making a real difference,” said Francine Baron, who stressed that the effects of climate change continue to impact development in her region, as countries are experiencing more severe and prolonged droughts, often times followed by sudden and high volumes of rainfall which result in massive soil erosion and catastrophic loss and damage.
“Likewise, the ongoing phenomenon of beach erosion, destruction of coral reefs – so vital to our tourism product and the character of our islands – risk untold damage, to our prized tourism assets,” she said, calling for more urgent and wide-ranging action “to ensure our very survival.”
In this regard, she looked forward to building on the momentum generated by the Paris Agreement ahead of the next meeting of the States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Marrakesh next year.
As an example of the urgency of the issue, Baron noted that Dominica had been painfully reminded of that in 2015, when Tropical Storm Erika had killed 30 of its citizens. That event had caused economic damage estimated at $483-million, the equivalent of 90 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP), she recalled.
While Dominica has since made great strides in building more climate-resilient and adaptive infrastructure in a process facilitated by the support of bilateral and multilateral partners, it “still suffers the disproportionate burdens and impacts of climate change,” which hamper its efforts to develop in a sustainable manner, she said, adding that resources intended for sustainable development programmes have instead been shifted to post-disaster rehabilitation efforts.
Dominica, therefore, continued to call for the establishment of an international natural disaster risk fund, she said, describing the Caribbean Risk Fund and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Disaster Recovery Facilities as “good starting points.”