With hurricane season set to follow pandemic, Caricom must find voice on climate change 

EPL Infrafred Sauna

The Caribbean Community Market (Caricom), established in 1973, is the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world and its achievements along the way are many. Great strides have been made—particularly through functional cooperation in education, health, culture, security—and it is a respected voice in international affairs because of a coordinated foreign policy.

Caricom’s main purpose is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) sits in on a Caricom press conference.

The terms of reference aforementioned are specific and member states each have a duty of care for its domestic treatment of Covid-19 related issues. However, Caricom as an organisation has a responsibility to be aware of what each member state is doing and consider how to address the regional impact of Covid-19. The recent tit for tat between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados suggests that Caricom states are not on the same page as it relates to the pandemic.

Additionally, the recent decision by president Donald Trump to stop funding the World Health Organisation (WHO)—a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for global public health—reflects a dangerous trend by his administration as it relates to USA support to international organisations for which Caricom states hold membership.

In my view, the Trump-led administration’s decision to defund the WHO reflects an administration whose leadership operates by whims and fancies.

There is another imminent challenge approaching: our domestic hurricane season, which has the potential to cause structural damage, flooding, further social disruption and loss of human life.

We can still remember the devastating effects, regionally, of Hurricane Dorian which went down as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.

Photo: Women look for refuge in Dominica during Hurricane Maria’s pounding.
(Copyright Times of Oman)

Dorian’s slow, destructive track through the Bahamas fit a pattern that scientists have been seeing over recent decades and have attributed to global warming. They expect this trend to continue as the planet warms, resulting in hurricanes stalling over coastal areas and bringing extreme rainfall.

“We are definitely seeing a trend toward stalling of these systems after they make landfall,” said Tim Hall, a hurricane researcher with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, “and there may be a climate change connection—though this is really at the leading edge of the science and is still being debated.”

It is very disturbing that, against this type of research and findings, Trump unjustifiably withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, officially ceding its global leadership on climate change. And whilst others have taken up the mantle, it’s not clear whether any of them can replace the immense diplomatic machinery that USA commands when engaged on an issue.

As climate change leads to rising average temperatures, extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas and a range of other impacts, we have already seen the negative effects in various parts of the world.

It would be a nightmare for us to face a severe hurricane season, even as we deal with Covid-19.

We can all do more than is being done now to change the outcome of our planet. But as an organisation, Caricom has to be outspoken on such issues, which will be devastating for our region but are treated trivially by some developed nations.

Photo: A dog examines sargassum seaweed on a beach in Manzanilla during the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/Wired868)

We must do what is necessary to maintain the integrity of international organisations which were established to address global issues in a non-partisan manner, and put the necessary machinery in place to avoid future damage to our planet and the resultant negative impact on us all.

As a region, CARICOM must become more vocal and active and be a leader in the efforts to preserve the WHO and the Paris Agreement.

We all have a duty of care to save Planet Earth!

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About Bryan St Louis

Bryan St Louis is a former education officer for the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU).

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