Are climate resilient strategies attending to the most vulnerable?
Climate Resilience- Fact or Fiction?
Just two weeks ago, business magnate and global philanthropist, Richard Branson, launched the Climate Change Accelerator for countries in the Caribbean region. This comes off the heels of the creation of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition formed by the region’s leaders to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone.” It came as a response to the destruction left by hurricanes Irma and Maria. CARICOM members led a financing campaign that would lead to re-building stronger, more resilient societies and received a pledging of US $8 billion across the span of five years.
But what does climate resiliency mean- and how does it affect the most vulnerable in society? We have seen time and time again, that storms have gravely affected the most under-developed areas, and in St. Lucia’s case, most of these areas lie in the south of the island. It makes me wonder what plans have been presented to build resiliency in these areas and if our people understand what it means to be climate-resilient. Are they aware of the reasons behind the changes in climate, the cause and frequency of these mega-storms and the methods to combat them?
Climate Resiliency in essence is formed on three tiers: ">stronger and smarter infrastructure to withstand extreme weather, integrated processes that bring together stakeholders across sectors to come up with resilience-building strategies and lastly the building of community capacity, particularly in the communities that bear the brunt of climate impacts. While we are investing in stronger and smarter infrastructure (evidence lies in the newly built solar farm, that would provide up to 5% of St. Lucia’s electricity demand) for the common man, climate resilience is a far off concept that has no use in daily life.
Those who are affected the most by climate change- farmers and those living in rural areas- are far away from the pledging conferences and international meetings that are financing their future survival. How many times have we heard of farmers drowning while trying to save their cattle before a hurricane, witnessed families being buried alive in rural areas because of landslides, persons being cut off from emergency shelters as a result of road-destruction, particularly in the Barre de l'Isle or even seen persons tying their houses down with rope before a storm? These events should inspire solutions to build on climate resilience in the form of stronger emergency evacuation facilities, adequate storage facilities for crops and livestock and power sources backed up by renewable resources available to everyone.
While I applaud the actions of Caribbean governments and international partners in pledging to the need for climate resilience. If these funds or solutions do not reach the most vulnerable in society, particularly members of rural communities, then we would have indeed failed the very persons impacted by climate change and left out two essential characteristics of achieving climate resiliency: the inclusion of stakeholders in finding strategies and the capacity-development of those most affected. Funding can come from the top-down, but shouldn’t the solutions be bottom-up and inspired by the ones most affected?
*Helen's Daughters is a St. Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity-building. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program. To learn more about the initiative, you can visit: Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/helensdaughters.slu/), Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/helensdaughters.slu/) Website (http://helensdaughters.org/)