When Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet finished a one-year stint as OECS Chairman in 2018, among the words used to describe his tenure was that he was a champion of Climate Change issues on behalf of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Among the areas of focus during his Chairmanship were vulnerability and resilience to climate change; disaster management and response; international advocacy and cooperation and exploring a blue economy.
In fact as the baton of leadership of the OECS changed, Director General Dr.Didacus Jules explained that Prime Minister Chastanet’s tenure as Chairman was “characterized by a vigorous and frenetic energy and an aggressive advocacy on the interconnection between climate diplomacy, economic resilience and our never ending battles against unilateral discriminatory regimes imposed by the developed economies. As a new Prime Minister, his baptism of fire was the devastation of Irma and Maria and his crown of accomplishment was the responsiveness and the unparalleled solidarity among Member States.”
The evidence shows that well before Prime Minister Chastanet became Chairman, he had been a vociferous voice of the world stage for SIDS. He has fought for the reclassification of these states with inherent vulnerabilities within the Caribbean basin and outlined the urgent need for adequate dedicated and accessible financial, technical and capacity building assistance to enable SIDS to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, to cope with loss and damage and to transition to resilient, low-carbon economies. To that end he has repeatedly called out the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to bolster Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the region and at every opportunity with an international audience Prime Minister Chastanet has focused on the effects of Climate Change including his addresses at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) debate.
The Prime Minister’s Budget Address of 2018/2019 was delivered under the theme “Building Resilience Today to Secure Our Future” and the Administration has continued to show its commitment to the environment with several bold decisions, including the banning of Styrofoam and the phasing out of single use plastics in Saint Lucia.
This month the Government launched an island wide clean-up campaign to remove plastic stuck in our drainage systems around Saint Lucia as was evidenced in Bruceville, Vieux Fort. Putting words into action the Administration has also converted several health centres to climate smart facilities and with all new road and building construction resilience building has been at the forefront. We saw this with the Choiseul Secondary School Construction and the new St Jude Highway, as well as roads built in Micoud South. At the signing of the consultancy contract for the rehabilitation of the Millennium Highway and the West Coast Roads, it was also announced by the Department of Infrastructure that resilience building was the priority.
The Guest Editorial written by Micah George in The VOICE Newspaper of Saturday August 4th 2019 seemed to miss all of this information.
Of course, the Government welcomes calls for more advocacy on Climate Change, however, the work of the administration in that regard should be recognized. To make his argument the author quoted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who spoke at the July CARICOM Meeting in Saint Lucia, but never mentioned the commitment made by our own Prime Minister at the same meeting on the issue of Climate Change.
As he took over as Chairman of CARICOM for six months, Prime Minister Chastanet reiterated that Climate Change and its effect on the Caribbean is his priority.
“During our deliberations here, we recognize that another hurricane season is upon us. The evidence has shown that Climate Change fuels increasingly destructive super storms as we have seen in the carnage left behind by Irma and Maria two years ago,” stated the PM. “In fighting the effects of climate change, we would need to depend heavily on the international community for assistance and support. The last two years have taught us however that the countries that are the greatest emitters and the cause of our current plight, are not sufficiently willing to compensate us for the damage that is being done. Despite our best efforts they have deliberately not amended international economic protocols to even allow us to make the necessary investments in building resilience.”
To the Prime Minister and the Administration, the matter is urgent and he noted that the Caribbean has to look for more immediate and innovative ways to solve our problems.
The Prime Minister championed the establishment of the region’s own resilience foundation and called on the United Nations General Secretary to support and endorse the initiative. This will be an issue brought up by the Chairman at the UNGA September meetings.
“We will be seeking the endorsement of the pacific SIDS, as well as developed countries and international development institutions,” he noted.
Even as the Prime Minister continues to advocate at the international level, Saint Lucia’s Minister for Sustainable Development, Honourable Gale T.C. Rigobert has had successes as it relates to Climate Change projects. The Minister recently launched Saint Lucia’s first approved Adaption Fund project for implementation. The project, which will be implemented through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and executed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, Natural Resources and Co-operatives, and is valued at US $9,858,470, and entitled, “Building Resilience for Adaptation to Climate Change and Climate Variability in Agriculture in Saint Lucia”.
It’s important to note that Climate Change was among the major issues which formed part of the Manifesto of the UWP Administration and the Government is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The record of the Government continues to illustrate that its efforts to build a new Saint Lucia includes ensuring our country is a resilient and eco-friendly nation.