OECS Environment Ministers Call For Expeditious Operationalisation Of Loss And Damage Fund Ahead Of The 2024 Hurricane Season

(OECS) – Considering the pressing challenges posed by climate change, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has steadfastly advocated for the interests of its Member States in international climate dialogues. With the recent conclusion of the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP28, held in the United Arab Emirates, the OECS Member States have delineated clear priorities aimed at addressing the critical concerns of the region amidst the global climate crisis.

One of these priorities is the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund, a crucial mechanism to support vulnerable nations, ahead of the 2024 hurricane season. In recent years, severe hurricanes, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017—a Category 5 hurricane packing winds of 177 miles per hour—caused severe destruction in several OECS Member States, namely, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. Also in 2017, Hurricane Maria, another Category 5 hurricane, devastated Dominica, destroying over 90% of the island’s housing. A 2018 UNDP Report titled “From Early Recovery to Long-Term Resilience in the Caribbean: Hurricanes Irma and Maria, One Year On” stated:

“In Dominica, damages, i.e., destroyed physical assets, totaled $930.9 million, while losses amounted to approximately $380.2 million—the equivalent of 226 percent of the 2016 GDP. In the case of Antigua and Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), damages and losses amount to $155 million and $2.6 billion, respectively. The tourism, agriculture, and housing sectors were significantly affected in all countries. In the BVI, damages and losses in the tourism sector alone are estimated to be $1.2 billion.”

Such catastrophic events induced by climate change have increased the need to make Loss and Damage funds accessible to OECS Member States through reputable Regional Institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank. This would allow islands within the region to receive emergency funds efficiently. The OECS would like this fund to be fully functional and accessible to ensure timely and effective recovery efforts for affected communities in Member States and to ensure that people receive the necessary resources to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

Sir Molwyn Joseph, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Health, Wellness, and the Environment, has been at the forefront of these advocacy efforts and expressed concern that there is an attempt to link climate mitigation and adaptation with loss of damage. At an OECS Ministerial Caucus on February 20, he highlighted the critical need for mechanisms that provide swift access to funds following climate-related disasters. Sir Molwyn stated:

“The problem we’ve had in the Caribbean is that every time small island developing states begin to make economic advancements, a disaster occurs and creates a setback for these economies.” He further stated that “small island developing states need to advocate with the intensity and scope that resulted in the agreement to establish the loss and damage fund.”
Sir Molwyn’s comments reflect the broader concerns of the Caribbean region and support the call of the OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules, for enhanced coordination by the region for advocacy, positioning, and mobilisation of resources.

The OECS continues to call for accelerated climate mitigation actions to keep global warming within the 1.5°C threshold, a goal that is vital for the survival of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) facing existential threats from climate change. This includes more ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to sustainable energy sources.

Emphasising the completion of the work on the global goal of adaptation, the OECS has also prioritized the need for concrete measures to enhance the resilience of SIDS to climate impacts. This entails ensuring that adaptation efforts are adequately supported, both technically and financially. Meeting climate finance targets and resolving technical issues were also underscored as essential for enabling SIDS to implement effective climate response strategies. The OECS advocated for clear and transparent mechanisms to ensure that promised financial resources are delivered and effectively utilised.

As the impacts of climate change intensify, the OECS remains committed to advancing the priorities of its Member States on the global stage. Through active engagement in COP and other negotiations, the OECS continues to advocate for enhanced support for adaptation, mitigation, and resilience-building efforts. Collaborating with the international community, the OECS is determined to secure a sustainable and resilient future for the Eastern Caribbean in the face of climate uncertainty.