In the wake of two recent hurricanes that have swept the Caribbean, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction, former Jamaica prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller has called for the enactment of a regional building code.
Simpson-Miller, who served as her country’s first and only female prime minister, who served from March 2006 to September 2007 and again from January 5, 2012 to March 3, 2016, also appealed for a significant boost to be given to the region’s disaster funds in light of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Whatever anyone else wants to say, or think, climate change is real,” warned Simpson-Miller as she delivered the Small Business Association’s Eighth Leo Leacock Memorial Lecture at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.
“This is especially so for those of us who occupy small, vulnerable island states. [We] will continue to be confronted by the effects of climate change with more of these intense and deadly disasters,” she said.
Amid concern that global warming, brought on by climate change, may be contributing to sizzling sea surfaces which give birth to more intense cyclones, Simpson-Miller said: “Let us not wait for another [Hurricane] Irma or Maria to begin to do what we know has to be done.
“The Caribbean region must come together now, fully understanding that in any given year, at least one territory in the region is likely to be severely impacted by one disaster or another,” she said, while cautioning Barbados and other countries that were spared the worst impact of this Atlantic hurricane season’s most powerful storms not to become complacent.
“For sure it does not help in taking comfort or breathing a sigh of relief that it was them and not us.
“We are one Caribbean people, one region facing a common environmental threat and we must be fully prepared to confront this threat of climate change together,” she said in light of the devastation suffered by Barbuda, Dominica, Anguilla, Saint Martin and the British Virgin Islands in particular, where the majority of this season’s deaths – numbering well over 50 in total – were reported.
The former Jamaican leader also called for a pooling of regional resources to deal with such eventualities.
While cautioning that there was no escaping hurricanes in the Caribbean, she stressed the need for the region to adopt appropriate building codes which can withstand such disasters.
“The governments of the region must commit to and seriously support the regional disaster fund,” the former prime minister said, adding that countries need not go it alone in building capacity to resist, or cope, with storms.
She also suggested that the Caribbean should seek “to engage the support of international companies which do business in the region, such as the airlines and cruise companies, to contribute to such a [regional disaster] fund”.