The devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the Bahamas should serve as a “stark reality” to the region of the effects of climate change and the vulnerability of the Caribbean to natural disasters.
Regional and international officials expressed this sentiment as they gathered in Barbados for the inaugural EU-Caribbean sustainable energy conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“We meet here . . . in the shadow of a great tragedy that has befallen our region. Matthew, both as tropical storm and hurricane, has had fatal consequences with deaths in Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Dominican Republic, while causing severe damage in The Bahamas and affecting Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and Cuba,” Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Irwin LaRocque said.
However, he acknowledged that Haiti, where the official death has toll to 372, according to the country’s Civil Protection Agency, had borne the brunt of the carnage with thousands there losing their homes, livelihoods and infrastructure to this “devastating force of nature”.
Matthew also left a trail of destruction in Cuba and the Bahamas.
At least one death and several injuries were reported in St Vincent and the Grenadines as a result of then Tropical Storm Matthew.
LaRocque said the region would do all it possibly could to assist affected countries, pointing out that the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), in collaboration with CARICOM member states, had deployed emergency response teams to Haiti and The Bahamas immediately following the passage of the hurricane.
“I am sure I am speaking on behalf of all here in expressing condolences to the families of the deceased and to the governments and people of the affected countries. We also sympathize with those who have lost their property and livelihood, or have been affected in one way or another in the wake of the storm,” LaRocque said.
He said “the erratic nature” and “prolonged intensity” of the storm demonstrated starkly the reality of the effects of climate change.
“It also highlights the vulnerability of our region, both in terms of the climatic events and the social, economic and environmental consequences of their aftermath,” he told the gathering.
“This emphasizes the importance of what we are engaged in here over the next two days. Renewable energy is a critical component of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a key factor in the battle to limit global warming, one of the more harmful effects of climate change. Renewable energy also contributes to our climate adaptation efforts,” he added.
The two-day conference, which was aimed at supporting the region’s transition to clean, affordable and efficient energy services towards a sustainable development, attracted over 300 people from 50 countries, including CARICOM, the EU and Latin America.
Vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Pim van Ballekom also expressed condolences, saying “our thoughts are with all those who are affected by Hurricane Matthew. It underlines the vulnerability of the region, and it also underlines the need to keep the COP 21 [2015 Paris Climate Conference] promises and implement what we agree to in Paris [in 2015]”.
On Monday, commiseration also came from the head of delegation of the EU to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Daniela Tramacere, who pointed out that “we are here now but our hearts and our thoughts go to the victims of Hurricane Matthew, particularly to our brothers and sisters in Haiti”.
At a separate function yesterday, Director General of the Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) at the CARICOM Secretariat Gail Mathurin also expressed condolences to those affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.
Addressing a seminar on the Implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Mathurin said both the Bahamas and Haiti had been expected to attend the event but the storm put aid to that..
“But obviously they are not able to be here. As we all prepare in the region to give support and help wherever, again we express our deep sympathy at the loss of life and damage cased by this terrible storm in Haiti and the Bahamas and our fellow Caribbean colleagues in Cuba and the United States,” Mathurin said.