Editorial: Make as much noise as possible!

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Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia, recently commented that the Caribbean was not prepared for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season which starts in June.  At least, that is what headlined much of the press that surrounded his address at the fifth Caribbean Development Roundtable (CDR) which was attended by more than 100 delegates from 16 countries.  We are not entirely sure of our representation at that roundtable but for this conversation, it makes little difference.
While Chastanet expressed his view on readiness, we believe that the more important part of his address related to the impact of climate change on the region and the struggles that the regional governments have in securing financing to get ahead of the curve in terms of infrastructure readiness.  The St. Lucia prime minister expressed views that reflected the harsh realities of the impacts of climate change and the long-term financial impacts that we all face as small developing nations reacting to problems that we did not cause.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made similar remarks in his address to the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in September of last year, following the devastation of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma.  He spoke passionately at that meeting as he championed the need for large nations to acknowledge the damage that they have caused on the rest of the world and especially the Caribbean and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).   And while PM Browne did an admirable job in presenting the fact that we are victims of this “man-made phenomenon, whose manufacture is attributable to those nations, that consume 80 percent or more of the world’s primary energy,” those culpable nations essentially ignored his pleas.
Maybe they did not understand, or maybe they just did not want to understand our prime minister, but in this most recent address, Chastanet has put the situation we all face into very plain English with easily relatable examples.  He pointed to the fact that the Caribbean has 10 of the most indebted middle-income countries in the world but face the hurdles of ensuring climate resilience through green investment in the face of great financial pressure from the same ‘culpable nations,’ including the impact of de-risking and the promotion of sustainable economic growth.
To use one of his examples, Chastanet said, “Imagine now as a prime minister of any one of these countries that you have to be given a choice.”   He asked, “Are you going to borrow money to build resilience?” noting, “I have said that if I am going to borrow money and raise a bridge, it does not carry any more cars than it did before – so there is no capacity building. There is no infrastructure expansion. If I am going to put my utility wires underground – if I am going to have slope stabilisation; if I am going to widen my river – none of those investments are going to generate a return on investment, I guarantee you, sufficiently to pay back what [we have] to borrow.”
He then went to the crux of the matter adding, “The most egregious part is that we are not even meeting our basic needs of education, of health care, of security and of infrastructure. So that when we borrow money for resilience building, it is going to come at the cost of those things.”  And while Chastanet made a request for classifying the debt differently, the absurdity that we find ourselves in is that we must bear the burden of the cost of cleaning up the mess caused by richer nations.
It is akin to your rich neighbours deciding to throw a massive, non-stop party but telling you that if you do not like the noise, pollution and cars parking on your pristine lawn, you should forgo your child’s education fund so that you can pay someone to pick up the garbage, soundproof your house and build a parking garage.  It would be a preposterous situation but that is essentially what is happening.
Our small struggling nations are being asked to foot the bill for building climate resilience while big nations twiddle their thumbs, continue to pollute and some even ignore science and say that climate change is a hoax while rolling back environmental regulations.  That, unfortunately, is the world in which we live.
But we must not give up hope.  Our leaders should continue to use every opportunity to ring the bell.  Make as much noise as they can and become the squeaky wheel. Join with other SIDS worldwide to pressure the nations
responsible for this mess to take responsibility for its cleanup and for implementing safeguards for their neighbours (us!). Yes, we know that they will continue to ignore us for as long as they can, but that should not dissuade us from making noise, because ultimately, the squeaky wheel will get some oil.  We hope!

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