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Caribbean hurricane season ‘will be different this time’

15 year old Ahijah Williams is terrified by the idea of another hurricane season.  

He is a student at North East Comprehensive School in Wesley, Dominica. He remembers how he felt when Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 5 storm, ripped through his community 12 months ago.

 “I was extremely horrified to hear those winds howling like wolves in the sky and houses flying away and people dying.” 

 Although fearful of the dangers that the 2018 hurricane eason could bring, he says he “would like to be more ready this time: prepare for the season, stock up on food, repair houses.”

Part 2: On the climate-change front-line

Dominica has been rebuilding its education system in the aftermath of Maria and preparing for the coming hurricane season. The European Commission provided the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF – working with the Government of Dominica and IsraAID – with 500,000 euros to support the education sector across all 72 schools

The rebuilding has not just been taking place in the physical sense, but also in terms of preparing teachers and students to respond appropriately during a natural disaster like a hurricane.

“I want to learn how to prepare for a hurricane and what we do after a hurricane. It is my responsibility to help as a member of the Dominica Cadet Corps,” says Ahijah. “I am looking forward to learning safe practices. It’s going to be different this time”

UNICEF also launched a “Return to Happiness” programme for the thousands of children affected by the hurricanes, helping them to work through their trauma using play, writing, drama and poetry.

Hurricane readiness

The people of Dominica are not alone. Across the islands of the eastern Caribbean, citizens, communities and governments are developing ways to improve their hurricane readiness.

And the UN is playing a major part in helping them to become more resilient, and better able to withstand the next season, as extreme weather events grow in frequency and scale.

The eastern Caribbean islands are no stranger to life-threatening weather conditions. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has identified the region as the second most hazard-prone in the world (after the Asia-Pacific region).

As well as hurricanes, inhabitants face threats such as floods and volcanoes, with regular annual losses from disasters estimated at $3 billion per year. In its 2018 Caribbean Outlook report, ECLAC recommended that governments in the region improve resilience by undertaking recovery and reconstruction assessments.

Following the back-to-back batterings from Irma and Maria, Dominica has taken this message on-board. Shortly after the hurricanes, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said: “Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total, and so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”

To reach this goal, the Dominican Government created a task-force to determine best practice across every sector and enforce new disaster mitigation measures throughout the island.

The UN played an important role and, even in the very early days of the humanitarian recovery efforts, started planning for resilience.

The UN Development Programme, UNDP, restored over 800 buildings for the most at-need people in Dominica and Antigua Barbuda, trained hurricane-affected Dominicans to rebuild their own communities, and ensured that roofs were put up in accordance with improved building codes.

In addition, the UNDP looked at existing building standards and, where necessary, reviewed them and raised them to bolster resilience. The aim is to enable Dominica to rebound from a Category 5 storm in a matter of weeks, rather than months or years.

UN disaster risk reduction

Raúl Salazar, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for the Americas and The Caribbean says that preparedness in the region has improved over the last year: “With the contribution of the international community and cooperation among countries of the region, the affected islands have initiated a process of ‘risk informed’ recovery in sectors as diverse as education; with a safe schools perspective, where schools are able to resist the impact of hurricanes; tourism, with a strong engagement of the private sector to re-establish services; and the building of national disaster risk reduction plans.”

However, one of the big fears for the coming years, according to Raúl Salazar, is the unpredictability brought about by climate change: “Through changing temperatures, precipitation and sea levels, amongst other factors, global climate change is already modifying hazard levels and exacerbating disaster risks,” he said, adding that “climate change will contribute an additional $1.4 billion to the expected annual losses from cyclone wind damage alone.”

Raúl Salazar’s concerns are echoed in the 2018 ECLAC Caribbean Outlook report, which predicts that “disaster-related costs are expected to escalate in the Caribbean in the face of population growth, rapid urbanization, increased exposure of assets and climate-change-related damage.”

For the UN Secretary-General, Antonió Guterres, climate change remains an overriding factor in the devastation wreaked by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Speaking on a visit to Dominica and Barbuda shortly after the hurricane struck, he said:  “the intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

As more and more countries are affected, and the associated costs, human and financial, continue to rise the international community is moving towards meaningful action.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed, committing all countries to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. And, because reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to halt climate change, States agreed to a “Global Adaptation Goal”, strengthening the ability of the most vulnerable countries to deal with its effects.

For more on Dominica’s “war” on climate change click here:

One of the crueller ironies of climate change is that, whilst they contribute less than 1 per cent to total greenhouse gas emissions, the Small Island Developing States tend to suffer disproportionately from its effects: just weeks after the hurricanes devastated his nation, Dominican Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, in an emotional address, told the UN General Assembly:

“The stars have fallen, Eden is broken… We as a country, and as a region, did not start this war against nature. We did not provoke it. The war has come to us!”

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/09/1018591

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Caribbean hurricane season ‘will be different this time’

15 year old Ahijah Williams is terrified by the idea of another hurricane season.  

He is a student at North East Comprehensive School in Wesley, Dominica. He remembers how he felt when Hurricane Maria, a devastating Category 5 storm, ripped through his community 12 months ago.

 “I was extremely horrified to hear those winds howling like wolves in the sky and houses flying away and people dying.” 

 Although fearful of the dangers that the 2018 hurricane eason could bring, he says he “would like to be more ready this time: prepare for the season, stock up on food, repair houses.”

Part 2: On the climate-change front-line

Dominica has been rebuilding its education system in the aftermath of Maria and preparing for the coming hurricane season. The European Commission provided the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF – working with the Government of Dominica and IsraAID – with 500,000 euros to support the education sector across all 72 schools

The rebuilding has not just been taking place in the physical sense, but also in terms of preparing teachers and students to respond appropriately during a natural disaster like a hurricane.

“I want to learn how to prepare for a hurricane and what we do after a hurricane. It is my responsibility to help as a member of the Dominica Cadet Corps,” says Ahijah. “I am looking forward to learning safe practices. It’s going to be different this time”

UNICEF also launched a “Return to Happiness” programme for the thousands of children affected by the hurricanes, helping them to work through their trauma using play, writing, drama and poetry.

Hurricane readiness

The people of Dominica are not alone. Across the islands of the eastern Caribbean, citizens, communities and governments are developing ways to improve their hurricane readiness.

And the UN is playing a major part in helping them to become more resilient, and better able to withstand the next season, as extreme weather events grow in frequency and scale.

The eastern Caribbean islands are no stranger to life-threatening weather conditions. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has identified the region as the second most hazard-prone in the world (after the Asia-Pacific region).

As well as hurricanes, inhabitants face threats such as floods and volcanoes, with regular annual losses from disasters estimated at $3 billion per year. In its 2018 Caribbean Outlook report, ECLAC recommended that governments in the region improve resilience by undertaking recovery and reconstruction assessments.

Following the back-to-back batterings from Irma and Maria, Dominica has taken this message on-board. Shortly after the hurricanes, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said: “Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total, and so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”

To reach this goal, the Dominican Government created a task-force to determine best practice across every sector and enforce new disaster mitigation measures throughout the island.

The UN played an important role and, even in the very early days of the humanitarian recovery efforts, started planning for resilience.

The UN Development Programme, UNDP, restored over 800 buildings for the most at-need people in Dominica and Antigua Barbuda, trained hurricane-affected Dominicans to rebuild their own communities, and ensured that roofs were put up in accordance with improved building codes.

In addition, the UNDP looked at existing building standards and, where necessary, reviewed them and raised them to bolster resilience. The aim is to enable Dominica to rebound from a Category 5 storm in a matter of weeks, rather than months or years.

UN disaster risk reduction

Raúl Salazar, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for the Americas and The Caribbean says that preparedness in the region has improved over the last year: “With the contribution of the international community and cooperation among countries of the region, the affected islands have initiated a process of ‘risk informed’ recovery in sectors as diverse as education; with a safe schools perspective, where schools are able to resist the impact of hurricanes; tourism, with a strong engagement of the private sector to re-establish services; and the building of national disaster risk reduction plans.”

However, one of the big fears for the coming years, according to Raúl Salazar, is the unpredictability brought about by climate change: “Through changing temperatures, precipitation and sea levels, amongst other factors, global climate change is already modifying hazard levels and exacerbating disaster risks,” he said, adding that “climate change will contribute an additional $1.4 billion to the expected annual losses from cyclone wind damage alone.”

Raúl Salazar’s concerns are echoed in the 2018 ECLAC Caribbean Outlook report, which predicts that “disaster-related costs are expected to escalate in the Caribbean in the face of population growth, rapid urbanization, increased exposure of assets and climate-change-related damage.”

For the UN Secretary-General, Antonió Guterres, climate change remains an overriding factor in the devastation wreaked by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Speaking on a visit to Dominica and Barbuda shortly after the hurricane struck, he said:  “the intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

As more and more countries are affected, and the associated costs, human and financial, continue to rise the international community is moving towards meaningful action.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed, committing all countries to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. And, because reducing carbon emissions is no longer enough to halt climate change, States agreed to a “Global Adaptation Goal”, strengthening the ability of the most vulnerable countries to deal with its effects.

For more on Dominica’s “war” on climate change click here:

One of the crueller ironies of climate change is that, whilst they contribute less than 1 per cent to total greenhouse gas emissions, the Small Island Developing States tend to suffer disproportionately from its effects: just weeks after the hurricanes devastated his nation, Dominican Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, in an emotional address, told the UN General Assembly:

“The stars have fallen, Eden is broken… We as a country, and as a region, did not start this war against nature. We did not provoke it. The war has come to us!”

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/09/1018591

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Runaway climate change still ‘a real possibility’: UN Secretary-General

The document, published by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate – a project comprising several UN bodies, and other institutions – finds that the benefits of smarter and clearer growth are significantly under-estimated, and that bold climate action could deliver $26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030.

Other benefits of switching to a clean economy include the creation of over 65 million new low-carbon jobs, and 700,000 fewer air pollution-related deaths.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister of Nigeria and Co-Chair of the Global Commission, said that “policy makers should take their feet off the brakes, send a clear signal that the new growth story is here and that it comes with exciting economic and market opportunities. $26 trillion and a more sustainable planet are on offer if we act decisively now.”

Speaking at the launch, Secretary-General Guterres said that momentum for climate action is growing every day, with over 130 of the world’s most influential companies now committed to using only renewable energy, fossil fuel-dependent countries looking to diversify, and over 250 investors with $28 trillion in managed assets signing on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative.

Shifting to a sustainable growth path has many other benefits. Climate resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year, restoring degraded lands means better lives for farmers, and clean air has vast benefits for public health.

Mr. Guterres that clean energy systems help developing countries, where over 1 billion people still do not have access to electricity,” adding that “it can help deliver access to energy to the one billion people who currently lack electricity. For example, Bangladesh has installed more than four million solar home systems. This has created more than 115,000 jobs and saved rural households over $400 million dollars in polluting fuels.”

Lord Nicholas Stern, Economics and Government Professor at the London School of Economics, who also Co-Chairs the Global Commission, said “we know we are grossly underestimating the benefits of this new growth story. And further, it becomes ever more clear that the risks of the damage from climate change are immense, and tipping points, irreversibilities, getting ever closer.”

Underlining the risks faced by the world, the UN chief said that climate change is “running faster than we are”, and that women, the poorest and the most vulnerable are hit first and worst by storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and rising seas.

Mr. Guterres reminded those present that the last 19 years included 18 of the warmest on record, that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, and that there is still a significant gap between national commitments to lower emissions, and actual reductions.

The Secretary-General told those present that climate change will be high on the agenda of the 2018 opening session of the General Assembly, as part of efforts to galvanise action ahead of the milestone 2020 meeting of parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/09/1018501

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