RODNEY BAY VILLAGE, St. Lucia – A Board Member of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), urged participants at the Caribbean Media Exchange to launch campaigns similar to those waged against HIV/AIDS to warn people of the dangers of climate change and how it could affect tourism and sustainable development in the region.
Noting tourism accounts for about 25 to 35% of the total GDP of the Caribbean and provides about one-fifth of all jobs, Isaac Anthony, CCRIF board member and Permanent Secretary of St. Lucia’s Ministry of Finance, lauded the Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx) for highlighting how climate change posed a “serious threat to the environment as well as to economies and societies – the impacts of which are likely to adversely affect the tourism sector.”
Anthony, who also serves as the Registrar of Insurance with responsibility for supervising and regulating St. Lucia’s insurance industry, called on CMEx and regional media to help countries better understand “hazard risk, climate change and climate change adaptation strategies,” adding, “You have already played a fundamental and effective role globally in using your powerful tool – communication – in the war against HIV/AIDS: You can do the same for climate change.”
Urging the media to focus more on climate change and its impacts on socio-economic development, Anthony, who also is Chairman of the Caribbean Public Finance Association, identified the changing climate as a “global driver of increasing disaster risk and threatens to undermine the critical development gains made by the most vulnerable countries, including small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean. Hazard impacts resulting from climate variability have exposed the vulnerability of key economic sectors such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, and water resources.”
For small island countries, he stressed, a single-event catastrophe can have a “devastating effect both on physical infrastructure and the economic fabric of the country. The small economies of the region combined with physical vulnerabilities often results in an amplification effect on the impact of natural hazards.”
Noting the difference between a rich country and a smaller nation, Anthony recalled Hurricane Ivan in 2004, “caused almost 200% of annual GDP impact in each of two Caribbean islands, Grenada and the Cayman Islands, as well as significant damage in Jamaica. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina’s impact in the United States was less than 1% of annual US GDP and only about 30% of Louisiana’s annual GDP.”
In the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government set up the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility with three priorities: First, to cover the post-disaster liquidity gap faced by governments between immediate, emergency aid and long-term redevelopment assistance. Second, to enable governments to receive money quickly, and third, to minimize the burden of governments to provide exposure information prior to coverage being initiated and loss of information after a disaster.
Through the pooling of capital into a collective reserve and spreading of risks geographically, the Facility provides cost-efficient coverage options for its participants against extreme natural events, the socio-economic impacts of which are beyond the management capacity of any individual country.
The Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) has hosted 18 conferences and symposia throughout the Caribbean and North America to underscore the value of the region’s largest industry, tourism, in bettering the health, education, culture, environment and wealth of communities in a climate friendly fashion.