"The threat is not abstract, it is
not very distant, it is immediate and it is real,"
Gonsalves told IPS.
"The country which I have the honor
of leading is a disaster-prone country. We need to
adapt, strengthen our resilience, to mitigate, we
need to reduce risks to human and natural assets
resulting from climate change.
"This is an issue however, which we
alone cannot address. The world is a small place and
we contribute very little to global warming but yet
we are on the frontlines of continuing disasters,"
Since 2001, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines has had 14 major weather events, five of
which have occurred since 2010. These five weather
events have caused losses and damage amounting to
more than 600 million dollars, or just about a third
of the countryís Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
"Three rain-related events, and in
the case of Hurricane Tomas, wind, occurred in 2010;
in April 2011 there were landslides and flooding of
almost biblical proportions in the northeast of our
country; and in December we had on Christmas Eve, a
calamitous event," Gonsalves said.
"My Christmas Eve flood was 17.5
percent of GDP and I donít have the base out of
which I can climb easily. More than 10,000 people
were directly affected, that is to say more than one
tenth of our population.
"In the first half of 2010 and the
first half of this year we had drought. Tomas caused
loss and damage amounting to 150 million dollars;
the April floods of 2011 caused damage and loss
amounting to 100 million dollars; and the Christmas
Eve weather event caused loss and damage amounting
to just over 330 million. If you add those up you
get 580 million, you throw in 20 million for the
drought and you see a number 600 million dollars and
climbing," Gonsalves said.
Over the past several years, and in
particular since the 2009 summit of the U.N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change in
Copenhagen, the United States and other large
countries have made a commitment to help small
island states deal with the adverse impacts of
climate change, and pledged millions of dollars to
support adaptation and disaster risk-reduction
On a recent visit to several Pacific
islands, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated
the importance of deepening partnerships with small
island nations and others to meet the immediate
threats and long-term development challenges posed
by climate change.
But Gonsalves noted that despite the
generosity of the United States, there is a scarcity
of funds for mitigation and adaptation promised by
the global community.
Opposition legislator Arnhim Eustace
is concerned that people still "do not attach a lot
of importance" to climate change.
"When a fellow is struggling because
he has no job and canít get his children to school,
donít try to tell him about climate change, he is
not interested in that. His interest is where is my
next meal coming from, where my childís next meal is
coming from, and that is why you have to be so
careful with how you deal with your fiscal
operations," he stated.
Eustace, who is the leader of the
opposition New Democratic Party, said people must
first be made able to meet their basic needs to that
they can open their minds to serious issues like
climate change. (Excerpts from IPS)