The 5th Council of Ministers of Environmental Sustainability (COMES 5) began Tuesday in Monserrat under the theme “Building Resilience on the Frontlines of Climate Change.”
Ministers of the Environment and delegates from the Ministries of Environment of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) were present for the opening ceremony.
Chamberlain Emmanuel, Head of Environmental Sustainability Cluster, said that the hurricanes which hit several islands, including Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, showed the region’s people at their finest.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017 left a significant trail of death, destruction and dislocation in multiple member states. While the storms’ fury showed nature at its worse, it also brought out the best in us as individuals, communities, nations and institutions,” he said.
He also said that the OECS Commission has been spearheading an effort to design a comprehensive resilience framework.
“The OECS Commission has been leading the charge towards designing and defining a comprehensive resilience framework which would underpin and guide the work of the coalition.”
Outgoing interim Chair of COMES, Simon Stiell, in his address, said that there is still work to done.
“We are reminded that much work needs to be done. Hurricane season has opened and our challenge to become climate resilient is at the foremost in each of our minds , [as are issues such as] unlocking the potential of our blue economy and unlocking and diversifying our energy portfolio. Issues like the sargassum build-up and tackling unsustainable waste management remain serious environmental challenges to our region with implications for our economies and the livelihoods of our people,” he said.
Incoming Chair for COMES, David Osborne, Montserrat Minister of the Environment, said that the Council of Ministers has a duty to work together to find solutions to climate resilience.
“We [the Council of Ministers] have a responsibility to present and future generations to [build and strengthen climate resilience at the OECS level],” he said.
“As [COMES], our main goal is to reinforce the value of preparedness and commitment to environmental best practice. This must be done from a local and international perspective, since our objectives are the enrichment of lives and the transformation of our communities within the OECS,” Osborne added.
COMES 5 will be attended by representatives of development agencies and key regional institutions, including the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), CARICOM’s Sustainable Development Programme, the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology.
COMES 5 has five major themes on its agenda, including lessons and proven practices to integrated approaches to building resilience, leveraging sustainable economic opportunities, advancing climate resilience and aligning the OECS environment agenda.