UN chief: Bahamas cannot foot the cost of Dorian alone

As United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres yesterday warned that climate change will increase risks of devastating natural disasters, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government expects a decrease in revenue as a result of Hurricane Dorian.

“We anticipate that the revenue will decrease,” Minnis said at a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“However we’ve been getting quite a lot of assistance from the international community.”

Guterres said there should be financing available for countries like The Bahamas when they are affected by climate-related disasters.

“In our new era of climate crisis, hurricanes and storms have turbocharged,” he said.

“They have come with greater intensity and frequency, the direct result of warmer oceans.”

He added, “It is absolutely essential to create an international consensus that concessional financing needs to be put at the disposal of countries for the reconstruction and for the capacity to do that reconstruction, increasing the resilience of the societies, and of the communities and of the countries to future disasters that inevitably will come,” he said.

Guterres urged countries to come up with plans to reduce emissions and reduce the impact of climate-related disasters on vulnerable countries.

“This climate emergency packs a triple punch of injustice,” he said.

“Firstly, the worst impact is on countries with the lowest greenhouse emissions. The Bahamas is a very good example of that. Secondly, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in those countries who suffer most.

“…And third, repeated storms trap countries in a cycle of disaster and debt. The financial cost of the damage caused by Dorian is not clear, but it will be in the billions of dollars, and The Bahamas cannot be expected to foot this bill alone. 

“These new, upscaled climate-related disasters demand a new multilateral response. Climate financing is an element. We must reach a target of $100 million per year from public and private sources for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world, as rich countries have been promising for nearly a decade.

“And we must improve access to development financing. In cases like The Bahamas, I strongly support proposals to convert debt into investment in resilience.

“Concessional financing must be made available to indebted middle-income countries that are vulnerable to extreme weather events, and this is something which we have been working hard to make the international community fully support.

“But most importantly, the entire international community must address the climate crisis with rising ambition and action to implement the Paris Agreement.”

He added, “This is a battle for our lives, but it is a battle we can and must win. Solutions exist, but for them to be achieved, we must shift taxes from people’s income to carbon; stop subsidizing fossil fuels and stop building nuclear plants by 2020 across the world.”

Minnis emphasized that New Providence, the country’s main economic center was unaffected by the storm, as were other Family Islands. He urged the international community to assist The Bahamas by continuing to visit unaffected islands.

Asked how the government is preparing for the possibility that New Providence could be hit by a storm of the intensity of Dorian, Minnis said there is much work to be done, but that there is evidence that The Bahamas is headed in the right direction.

“As we continue to build, we must improve our building codes, building structures,” he said.

“The shantytowns that we have that we know about, we know that those are in danger of being affected by the elements of the storm, so those are areas that we must aggressively pursue and correct. It is essential for individuals to know that they must live in proper accommodations.

“We must continue to build resilience and improve continuously, because the strength of the hurricane was Category 6. Who knows what’s next?

“Two hundred miles per hour (mph) is quite a bit. But, in spite of that, if you looked at many homes, some of the homes withstood 200 mph and in many instances it was even higher than 200 mph.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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