Commonwealth Secretary General commits to helping C’bean fight climate change


Dominica-born Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland has pledged to rally international support for hurricane-hit Bahamas and other islands feeling the brunt of climate change.

She reaffirmed her commitment to addressing climate change after witnessing first-hand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas.

Scotland, who said that what she saw was “remarkably sobering”, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) there can be no more delay in taking appropriate action.

“We have spoken for so long about the existential threat that this climate crisis presents to small vulnerable island states and to the least developed. But this is the evidence, if we needed further evidence, as to the utter devastation which is produced…This is a moment where the world needs to stop and understand that change has to happen and it has to happen now,” she said.

From September 1 to 3, the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, packing maximum sustained winds near 185 miles per hour with higher gusts, tore through the northern Bahamas, killing more than 50 people and causing widespread destruction in the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Scotland said she was taken aback by what she had seen in Abaco.

“When I visited Abaco it was startling. Abaco was an island which was thriving, somewhat luxuriant in the beautiful, blue turquoise seas that surround the Bahamian archipelago. Now what you see is a dust-ridden, barren piece of land where virtually no house is left standing, save for the government building and the hospital. And it is an extraordinary, extraordinary sight to behold and none of the pictures or the videos taken of it actually represents fully what you see when you stand and look at it for yourself.

“I think the vision will be scarred in my memory for ever. It also will enable me to describe with a greater degree of intimacy and immediacy what I have witnessed to members of the international community that we will see not only at the World Bank meeting [later this month] but later at COP in Chile,” she said.

The Commonwealth Secretary General, whose own homeland was devastated by another Category 5 hurricane – Maria – two years ago, pointed out that the hurricane season was not yet over and more major hurricanes could impact the region.

But she said she intended to keep up the fight on behalf of the islands.

“The Commonwealth’s support is absolutely needed and I am determined to continue to rally support across the world and across all international agencies and institutions and in the upcoming meetings that all happen between now and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali in Rwanda in June 2020,” she said.

“And it is absolutely clear the climate will remain near the top if not the very top of the Commonwealth’s agenda….There is much that we have to do as an international community and we must do it together.”

The Commonwealth has created a Disaster Risk Finance Portal – which will serve as a one-stop shop for streamlined access to the numerous sources of financing – that it will present to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting to be held in the margins of the upcoming World Bank meeting.

Scotland said she hoped the portal would help The Bahamas and other member states that are similarly threatened to know what sort of help is available for them.