Monday 25 May, 2020

Beckles praises Caribbean leaders for climate smart initiatives

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir Hilary Beckles has commended Caribbean leaders for taking action that sees the region designated the world’s first climate-smart change zone.

This initiative sees Caribbean leaders together with Sir Richard Branson, the Inter-American Development Bank and a number of agencies looking to put in place safeguards against the deleterious impact of climatic forces on the region. 

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith said: “As citizens of small-island developing states and inhabitants of the second most disaster-affected region in the world our dependence on key economic and climate-sensitive sectors such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries, brings our vulnerability into sharp focus.

“It is for this reason that building resilience must be the highest priority for the Caribbean community. The Accelerator is, therefore, a most timely venture.”

She further pointed out that the region’s experience with natural disasters reflected in gross domestic product loss, infrastructural damage and the impact on lives and livelihoods  ‘’dictate loudly why we must build and build back better and stronger.”

Speaking at the launch of the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Beckles said UWI is honoured to host, and to engage as an active participant, in the official launch of The Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator.

“Prime Minister Holness might wish to remind us that while he represents, in his political persona, the future of “Green Energy” in Jamaica, that his embrace of the “Blue Economy” is merely indicative of his leadership of Caribbeanness.

“But how pleased we are that the world has now risen, like our sea levels, to endorse the thinking of this region that it should be declared the World’s First Smart Climate Change Zone. For twenty years Caribbean experts have been calling for this recognition. They have been doing their homework. Now their knowledge and skills have been recognized.

“As we warmly welcome the arrival of the Climate Smart Accelerator, and commend the vision and actions of our regional political leaders and their global allies for its conception, our university has good reasons to speak to its legendary legacy of commitment to this conversation that has now, finally matured. PMs Mitchell, Chastanet and Skerrit must be commended for this insightful and forceful leadership. The UWI assisted in rolling the wicket. They batted beautifully on behalf of the region."

UWI has lead the way in combating climatic impacts on the region and has done some notable academic work in this area.

As early as 1957, it established The Centre for Seismic Research, in Trinidad.

In 1986 – The Centre for Marine and Environmental Studies at our Cave Hill Campus in Barbados;

In 2006 – The Institute for Sustainable Development here at Mona.....constituting collectively a rich praxis of research, teaching, and activism that has laid the pathway and policy framework for the arrival of the Accelerator.

UWI is currently partnering with the Government of Jamaica, The Ministry of Tourism and  Minister Bartlett, in establishing the Global Tourism Resilient and Crisis Management Centre.

“The University’s current five-year strategic plan speaks to this legacy as an “Activist Academy” engaged with the big challenges facing our communities, and none is bigger than the subject before us this morning. This much is the consensus reached in the region at the highest level of State and in its university.

“This Caribbean, for centuries, has been a zone known for both the violent extraction of wealth by colonialism and a history of wealth destruction by hurricanes.......processes and forces not easily separated other than semantically.

“The impoverishment of the region by extractive colonialism cannot be separated from the destructive impact of ill-winds. History and hurricane have done their damage in the region. We must by necessity confront both with a culture of indigenous resistance and resilience. As we rebuild we must repair. Climate-smart must begin with citizens smart about their history.

Sir Beckles continued saying that Caribbean folks have been battered and bruised for centuries. This 21st century must see the end of this legacy.

“Despite the pain, we have persisted in desiring to be a zone of love and peace, celebratory of democracy and humanity, driven by hope and the quest for happiness, and all against a background, and within an ecology, of extreme vulnerability,” he pointed out.

Sir Beckles is of the view that this extreme vulnerability must now be translated into community hyper-determination to be aggressive about our survival and thrive and that it is as much a moral message to our region as it is a vision to refashion our future.

“It is as much about sustainable economic development as it is about social justice and inclusion.

“It is as much about repairing properties damaged and destroyed by hurricanes as it is about repairing communities damaged and destroyed by history,”  declared the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

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