As part of measures to help Barbados increase its resilience towards climate change and natural disasters, government is looking at moving utility cables underground, as well as negotiating reduced insurance plans for homeowners.
These were two of five initiatives which Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle revealed government was pursuing while speaking at a Resilience, Urban Rehabilitation and Sustainability Roundtable hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) this morning at its Welches, Christ Church, headquarters.
The event was attended by several high profile officials including the IDB’s Country representative for Barbados Juan Carlos De La Hoz Vinas; Manager of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Juan Pablo Bonilla; Special Advisor to the government on the economy Professor Avinash Persaud, as well as Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams and Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan.
“Possible projects in this area include supporting the early resumption of essential services such as through the undergrounding of cables or enabling water to be delivered without a heavy reliance on the grid. Placing underground some of our utilities is going to go a long way in being able to address the issues of continuity and livelihoods,” Caddle said.
“What we’ve seen in some of the countries that have had severe natural disasters or extreme weather events is that not only did you have the significant loss related to the event itself, but it took people a long time . . . . We think one of the large projects that will demonstrate a strong partnership with the private sector as well, is to be able to underground a lot of our overhead utilities. We think it is a major climate resilience investment and we think it is going to go long way in terms of our ability to pick up and hit the ground running.”
The Minister said making insurance policies affordable for Barbadians was also high on its agenda.
“The people who are on the frontlines on this climate fight are the ones least able to be able to finance their own resilience. We as a Government have to make the commitment to supporting that in this effort,” Caddle insisted.
“But I think that we have to start looking at different financial models for these kinds of interventions. What is the insurance model that is going to allow people to retrofit their homes in a way that is climate resilient…We have to start having some clear conversations with the insurance sector, but we also need to integrate discussion of insurance instruments into our discussions about the global responsibility for climate change.”
She said the other initiatives included the identification of potential opportunities for the IDB and private sector to work together on climate resilience and clean energy investments; a commitment to working towards accessing the IDB’s contingent credit facility for natural disasters before the start of next hurricane season and the identification of projects and opportunities primarily in the blue economy that can be supported through the IDB’s natural capital lab.
Caddle said it would be “reckless and irresponsible” if the island failed to prepare for a future of increasing and unprecedented climate disruption and the risk of climate-related devastation.
“These investments will save lives and significantly reduce the human and economic costs of natural disasters . . . . The future viability, stability and prosperity of Barbados depends on the choices and decisions that we make today,” Caddle said.
The Minister, however, said she would like to see Barbados receive increased funding from the IDB.
“We hope to see a stronger and greater commitment by the IDB to access climate finance resources on behalf of Barbados for a major climate resilience project before the end of 2019,” she said.