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A case for climate change compensation

The trinidad Guardian / Caricom and the wider Caribbean must now mount a case for compensatory support from the international community, especially the industrial world, those countries whose industrial gases and waste are despoiling the earth’s fragile climate balance and wreaking severe damage and destruction to the social economy of the region; the destructive 2017 hurricane season is a case in point.

The urgency is great, as beyond 2017, the indications from the climatologists are that the global warming phenomenon caused by the disruptive and anti-environmental habits of mankind and the resultant climate change will continue to impact on the Caribbean with devastating hurricane force.

As was made clear at the 2017 State of the Industry Conference (Sotic) of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation held recently in Grenada, the tourism industry, accounting for up to 85 per cent of the GDP of the especially dependent tourism economies in the Caribbean, has suffered serious damage because of the hurricanes and storms.

Thirty-three lives were lost within the nine Caricom countries impacted. One hundred and thirty thousand people had their lives severely disrupted; and the tourism plant and environmental attractions of Dominica have been either severely damaged or destroyed, states the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Agency.

In this context, the CTO has reduced its projections for growth in the tourism industry for 2017 from between 2.5 to 3.5 per cent to one to two per cent.

Every one per cent reduction in tourist arrivals (based on 2015 travel data) will cost Caricom countries US$137 million in lost revenue, estimates Dr Justin Ram, director of the Economics Department at the Caribbean Development Bank.

That is the kind of research work that has to be done to make the case for compensation for climate change damage to the region and to the economic industry of tourism. One approach, advocated at Sotic by Grenada’s Minister of Tourism, Clarice Modeste-Curven, is for the region to “send a strong message that we can no longer ignore global warming and climate change.”

Moreover, she told the conference that the policy of the World Bank to exclude middle-income countries in the Caribbean from development assistance using a per capita model is flawed.

“As we all know, one unfortunate weather event can wipe out a considerable portion of the GDP of any member state. The international community therefore must recognise our unique situation in this regard, and fashion developmental support accordingly,” said the Grenada Tourism Minister.

Caricom has had a successful track record relating to the co-ordination of its foreign policy in relation to third countries. Several preferential trade agreements, the Law of the Sea negotiations and other international agreements have resulted from the co-ordination of foreign policy among Caricom member states.

Making the argument for compensatory support from the carbon-producing industrial world for hurricane damage seems an eminently feasible proposition to be pursued by Caricom countries that contribute very little to the pollution.

CTO’s Secretary General Hugh Riley said discussions on mounting a platform for compensation “are being discussed at this time at the level of the CTO and Caricom”; we wait to hear of the outcomes.

In the meantime, however, a major and immediate challenge is for the CTO and the tourism-dependent economies to send the message to the source markets for visitor arrivals that many territories in the Caribbean were unaffected by the hurricanes and remain “open for business.”

The information-cum-marketing/advertising programme will require serious funding to purchase time on the international television networks, the print and online media.

A US $10 million budget would be great, but “we will work with US$1 million if we are able to raise it from among the membership,” says Riley.

The hotel and travel industry at the conference was encouraged to look to China and its mammoth market of tens of millions of the Chinese middle class, now travelling out to destinations around the world.

T&T’s 200-year old Chinese population can be an attraction.

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