The Caribbean is renowned as a travel destination, famous for its beaches, clear waters, and seemingly ever-lasting sun. However, it is also a frontline soldier when it comes to the fight against global warming. While the rest of the world continues to talk about the problem, the Caribbean, unfortunately, has no option but to battle it first-hand. The pill gets harder to swallow when we compare the Caribbean’s sliver of global emissions contribution to other more resourceful and wealthier nations.
In 2018, a special report conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming, the world must stick to a 1.5C degree target with any higher global temperatures leading to rapid and far-reaching consequences. The consequences include rising sea levels, coral bleaching, loss of ecosystems and extreme weather events.
For the Caribbean, much of this is already happening. In 2017, Hurricane Irma and Maria formed in the Atlantic Ocean, hitting the region in one of the most unprecedented and devastating disasters in recent history. It not only carried more rainfall than previous storms, but that year saw a higher-than-average record of tropical storms that became hurricanes. A 2019 study found that Hurricane Maria produced the most rainfall since 1956, and these events were becoming five times more likely due to human-induced climate change.
Several years later, the Caribbean continues to recover from the climate crisis while remaining on high alert for worsening hurricane seasons. Many islands are rebuilding with more resilient infrastructure, but there’s only so much the region can do without the proper funding and backing.
One needs only to briefly look at the region’s history to see how it has been underdeveloped and exploited, dating back to colonialism. This has left the Caribbean dependent on global support, much of which has not gone to the necessary lengths. So, when the region progresses, it is forced back by another weather disaster that can take years to recover fully.
According to Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, many small islands are grappling with a debt crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and worsening the already dire situation. To make matters worse, when these island nations lobby for access to grants and longer-term funding at low-interest rates, they are deemed ineligible due to being categorised as a “high-income country”.
In Antigua and Barbuda, this has left the government to attempt to tackle the climate crisis alone where possible. This has meant implementing tighter building codes, constructing desalination plants and planting more trees.
The Green Climate Fund, the world’s largest climate finance fund, has been instrumental in the region’s little strides. The fund, which was established in 2010, was designed to assist developing countries in “adaption and mitigation practices to counter climate change”. Currently, the fund is financing a major water project in Grenada that will strengthen its water tanks, reservoirs, and pipes infrastructures.
Dominica: The World’s First Climate-Resilient Nation?
However, there are some promising stories to come out of the Caribbean. Dominica, or affectionately known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean, has committed itself to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation after the tragedy of Hurricane Maria. Much of the island was ravaged by the category five storm, leaving citizens to rebuild almost from scratch.
To do so, Dominica utilised funds generated from its Citizenship by Investment Programme. Weather-resistant housing, a geothermal plant, health centres and schools were some of the major areas the CBI Programme helped strengthen.
Dominica also set up the Climate Resilience Execution Agency to establish initiatives aligned with the island’s goal of becoming the world’s first climate-resilient nation. CREAD is supported by UK Aid, the Government of Canada, the Caribbean Development Bank, and the World Bank.
While small islands taking it upon themselves to combat the climate crisis is admirable and necessary for survival, it is also clear that international governments and bodies must do more to ensure the region’s protection.