Finding climate ambition outside of Europe

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Hurricane Maria left Dominica completely decimated. 200% of the country's GDP was lost in less than 24 hours. [Stuart Rankin / Flickr]

Yesterday at the Bonn climate summit, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica underlined the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the support needed to rebuild a fully climate-resilient nation. Maeve McLynn describes how rich nations can help.

Maeve McLynn is finance and subsidies policy coordinator at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

Dominica is a country that has become a reluctant poster child of the scathing impacts of climate change in the twenty-first century. Some weeks ago, on a cold rainy night in Brussels, Skerrit described the devastation wrought upon his country and the aftermath of destruction following Hurricane Maria which tore through the Caribbean island on September 18 this year.

Without any embellishment or theatrics, the picture painted was nothing short of frightening.

To put it briefly, Dominica was completely decimated. 200% of its GDP was lost in less than 24 hours, while its 70,000+ citizens were left without electricity and water, waiting for help in the remains of what were their homes and communities.

Make no mistake: the intensity and frequency of the hurricanes that hit the Caribbean this year are the results of our changing climate. Prime Minister Skerrit and his people watched Maria morph from a Category 3 to a Category 5 hurricane in under an hour, becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island since records began. And while Dominica has made no contribution to the global climate crisis, it is to join the range of other blameless countries dealing with the consequences of our failure to tackle the crisis.

Concerned about the persistent gap between what needs to be done and what is actually being done to address climate change, European civil society together with developing countries have been calling on the EU to enhance its climate action since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Central to that call is the necessity to strengthen its targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst also increasing support for countries at the forefront of climate change. Yet almost two years on from Paris, those demands continue to fall on deaf ears.

All the while, real action is happening elsewhere in the EU’s partner countries which are facing the worst impacts of climate change – Dominica is one of those countries. Instead of sitting idly by in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Dominica is putting together a plan to become the first climate-resilient country in the world – a mark of real vision and ambition for a safe future. Dominica is showing the rest of the world that it is not going to wait around for global talk shops to turn into action, instead choosing to act before the situation is beyond recoup. Instead, it is turning the devastation of Maria into an opportunity to re-build its economy and communities in a safe, resilient and sustainable way.

As we wind down yet another set of climate negotiations at COP23 in Bonn, what can Prime Minister Skerrit tell his people to assure them that his plan to safeguard their future from events like Hurricane Maria will be successful? How can he guarantee that his vision for a fully climate-resilient country will become a reality?

He could start with a confident assurance from partners such as the EU that they will fully back him with capacity-building, technology, and additional financial support in line with the needs identified to build up the resilience of Dominica. He could continue with the promise of consistent and reliable support for additional adaptation measures with the intensity of climate impacts set to grow. Finally, he could be guaranteed that the EU will do its part to speed up and increase its climate action so that the most dangerous impacts will be avoided.

Building a fully climate-resilient country is inspiring. But for many countries like Dominica, it is also a necessity. The EU needs to stand firmly with its partner countries as this necessity becomes reality.