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My message to you is this: The Caribbean urgently needs climate financing reforms

Address by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl

Good evening, Dominicans, residents, friends, and family.

I address you tonight, days after we all watched in horror as Hurricane Beryl ravaged our Caribbean region.

I am sure you have seen the photos and videos coming out of Carriacou, Union Island, Petite Martinique, St. Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, and of course, most recently, Jamaica.

We in Dominica offer our thoughts and prayers to those who lost their homes, their livelihoods, and the families who lost loved ones in the storms.

We are mobilizing government and private sector resources to assist the victims of Beryl. And, I am calling tonight upon our churches up and down the length and breadth of Dominica to offer special prayers this Holy Sabbath for the victims of this deadly storm.

My fellow Dominicans, in seeing the videos and the images coming out of our brother and sister islands, I could not help but be taken back to the memories of Maria. The destruction, the incredible damage, and the loss of life inflicted upon the people of Dominica by Hurricane Maria are written into our hearts and souls.

No one who lived in Dominica during that time will forget the terror of the storm’s passing… and the utter devastation we confronted in the aftermath.

The damaged homes, the lost family heirlooms, the injuries, and the tragic loss of life.

I remember with terrifying clarity when my roof was lost during the storm. I know the fear and terror that so many Dominicans felt when the storm passed.

As we prepared for Hurricane Beryl, I could feel the stress and concern among our people that we could, once again, be impacted.

Thank God we were spared this time.

But, the truth of the matter is, given the changes in global climate, it is not a matter of ‘if’ a storm of that magnitude hits us again, but, when.

Here in Dominica, our geography makes us uniquely vulnerable to storms.

Our mountainous geography makes mudslides more likely and increases the chances of villages being cut off.

We are just at the beginning of this hurricane season. Hurricane Beryl was the earliest ever category 4 storm to develop.

The increasing number of hurricanes and their increasing ferocity do not just cause fear, damage, destruction, and loss of life, but, they are also making life more expensive.

Many of you are concerned about the cost of living – which is going up all over the world. So, let me explain one of the causes.

Those who own property know that property insurance rates have gone up in recent years. And, those who rent property see rent going up because the owners of their properties have seen their insurance rates go up.

My brothers and sisters, those rates are going up because of the storms and climate change. And, it means you have to pay more.

And, it could get worse. In some jurisdictions around the world, property insurance is becoming unattainable.

The truth of the matter is, that many Caribbean people do not study climate change or think it impacts their lives. They think it is something politicians talk about at international gatherings that has no impact on them.

But, people here in Dominica are feeling the cost of living increase that is plaguing the entire world.

If you are worried about the cost of living, you should be worried about climate change… because, my brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you that these things are related!

The frequency and ferocity of storms are making insurance more expensive. Property insurance, as I discussed, but, also the insurance for goods that travel from all over the world to be sold here in Dominica. These goods require insurance while in transit. Insurance has gone up for them.

And, insurance has also gone up for the container ships that transport those goods and for the seaports and airports used to transport the goods. Those higher prices are being passed on to you when you buy those products at stores, shops, and markets across Dominica.

Climate change is also impacting the price of food.  In those areas of the world that produce a significant amount of wheat, sugar, corn, rice, and the basic staples of our agricultural system, climate change is causing droughts in some areas and waterlogging crops in other areas.

But, do not take my word for it. Ask our farmers here in Dominica. They have seen changing weather patterns impacting them as well. So, what are we to do about it as a small country with limited resources?

Well, my message tonight is not just for the people of Dominica, but for the people of the world. Caricom has been sounding the alarm.

The reality is that we are not the cause of the global climate crisis. But, we are the victims of it. I know that it is not just the people of Dominica listening to my message tonight, but, also international NGOs, governments, ambassadors, and world leaders.

My message to you is this: the Caribbean urgently needs climate financing reforms. We need resources that will not just help us rebuild after storms, but, resources that will allow our communities to build more resilient infrastructure, roads, electricity, water, and homes.

This financing must also be used to address the insurance concerns that are causing the cost of living to go up for our people.

I would be happy to send you photos, videos, and testimony of how climate change is impacting our people. And, it is past time for you to act.

To the people of Dominica, we must be resilient. We must prepare because the next storm is coming.

We must redouble our efforts in agriculture to make ourselves more food secure because in this changing world, we must rely more on ourselves.

We must build our energy systems that will allow us to generate electricity in our communities and get electricity up sooner after storms.

Our emergency management teams must have plans to make sure we can quickly get to even the most remote places after a storm.

We must work with insurance companies to address the cost and availability of insurance at the regional and international levels.

My brothers and sisters, we have been through many challenges – a global pandemic, the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2010, and now climate change and the global cost of living crisis.

We are living in challenging times. We are living in times of great change and great hardship. In times of great crisis, cooperation protects us.

As we face the forthcoming hurricane season, let us prepare and cooperate now by strengthening our roofs and clearing the drainage paths.

In the coming weeks, we will organize nationwide cleanups to clean our drainage gutters to ensure we are prepared for a storm. I have asked parliamentarians to check up on seniors and the vulnerable and make sure they have their contact information shared in case they need help.

We all saw the photos and videos from Beryl. And, we all remembered the trauma of Maria.

I remain as dedicated as ever to the mission I began in 2017 after the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria.

Dominica is now more committed than ever to leading the charge on environmental awareness. Since Hurricane Maria, we have spearheaded the adoption of innovative solutions to adapt to the changing climate, including improved agricultural practices, coastal protection measures, and green energy initiatives.

We will continue to set and pursue ambitious targets for renewable energy adoption, leading to cleaner and more sustainable energy systems. Additionally, we aim to enhance our understanding of climate systems and develop new strategies for mitigation and adaptation.

As a government, we will advocate for greater public awareness and activism among our youth. Our young people must take greater ownership of their futures in a world increasingly hostile to their collective well-being.

Now is the time for our youth to demand stronger climate action and hold the developed countries accountable.

As Prime Minister of Dominica, I will continue to push for the countries that are signatories to global agreements like the Paris Accord to demonstrate a collective will to address climate change. Climate change is a global problem that requires coordinated international efforts to address its disproportionate impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Dominica will persist in advocating for ourselves and our Caribbean neighbors, who are on the frontlines of the climate change crisis.

Indeed, we are facing a crisis not of our own making. Now is not the time for division. Now is the time to come together and prepare. And, now is the time for us to look at our priorities and realize that in this changing world, we are better together than we are apart.

As I close tonight, let us pray for the victims by recalling Isaiah, Chapter 41, Verse 10:

“So do not fear for God is with you; do not be dismayed, because He is our God. God will strengthen and help you and uphold you with His righteous right hand.”

In His name, we pray. My brothers and sisters, God be with you. Good night.

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