Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government have asked the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) with recommending how the Community could expedite the implementation of building codes.
This discussion took place at the just concluded Twenty-Ninth Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which prioritised discussions on building a climate-resilient Community on its packed agenda. The decisions of the Conference were recorded in the Communique that was issued following the Meeting at the Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel in Haiti under the Chairmanship of His Excellency Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti.
Heads of Government recognised the implementation of building codes as a key mechanism to safeguard critical infrastructure, and as an important component of the Community’s resilience agenda.
A 2016 audit done by CDEMA under the Caribbean Disaster Management (CDM) Framework revealed that many homes in the Community were not constructed to withstand the impacts of catastrophic hazards. This concern extended to critical infrastructure such as hospitals, morgues, landfills, connecting bridges, airports and seaports.
During 5-8 September last year, the Leeward Islands were ravaged by Hurricane Irma, a strong Category Five Hurricane, which battered Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southern islands of The Bahamas.
Just about ten days later, Hurricane Maria – the second Category Five Hurricane to make landfall in the Region in September 2017 – ravaged Dominica. Maria was the third hurricane, following Jose, that hit the Region within a three-week span. The entire populace in Dominica, Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands was impacted. There was up to 95% damage to building stock in Dominica and Barbuda, and, on average, 75-80% in the British Virgin Islands.
Heads of Government therefore recognised that natural disasters and climate change posed serious challenges to CARICOM’s sustainable development and mandated CDEMA to pursue “a comprehensive assessment of the resource requirements to operationalise an effective disaster risk management and mitigation strategy for the Community.”
They highlighted the need for “innovative financing mechanisms” to finance resilient reconstruction, and discussed the recapitalisation for the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), and noted the proposal to extend the range of risk covered by the Facility.
An important issue within these discussions was the challenges Member States experienced with evacuating nationals during the 2017 hurricane season. This, the Heads of Government noted, highlighted the imperative of articulating a comprehensive regional approach. In that regard, they welcomed the Model Evacuation Policy and Plan which has been endorsed by the CDEMA Council of Ministers.
They highlighted the importance of a “focused implementation” of the Paris Agreement, and urged the coordinated participation of CARICOM Member States in the negotiations to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme, taking into account their support of the positions of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Heads of Government urged all countries to ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, as a matter of urgency, in order to support more ambitious climate change action. They also signalled support for regional participation in negotiations throughout the year leading up to COP 24, scheduled for Katowice, Poland, from 3-14 December, 2018.
The CARICOM Heads of Government also encouraged Member States to take advantage of the strategic opportunities for financing under the Green Climate Fund and other climate financing options through accreditation processes.