Keith Mitchell: Natural disasters are the ‘new normal’

Keith Mitchell.

The board of governors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) began its 48th annual meeting on Wednesday, with Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell warning that natural disasters.

Hazards associated or linked to climate change is creating a new normal in the region that will require a shift in developmental planning, he told delegates.

“Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning.

“In practice, this will require a shift in focus, from sustainable development to climate-smart sustainable development.”

He said that at the macro level, the region must accelerate its transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronise economic development with environmental sustainability.

“Operationally, we must institutionalise climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programmes, of both the public and private sectors.

“In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said, while explaining that it is crucially important that the region invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of the planet Earth.

“Adjusting to the new normal and transitioning to a truly resilient Caribbean will also require a new financing architecture.

“This must not only involve grant funding; but also innovation in lending and insurance mechanisms that are uniquely tailored to our Caribbean realities, and must explicitly consider our inherent vulnerabilities.”

Focusing on the waste disposal practices in the region as an example, the Grenada prime minister, who was reelected in a landslide earlier this year, said that it must be made to conform to the highest environmental standards.

“We must also hasten to reverse our dependence on the use of plastics and styrofoam materials, for example, and start using bio-degradable material,” he said, calling for urgency to enact legislation that will give teeth to and accelerate the region’s adherence to environmental best practices.

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