“We contend that liability for the destruction of Barbuda and the dislocation of its residents, resides with those whose excessive carbon emissions have unleashed the demons of climate change,” Browne told the Caribbean community (CARICOM) United Nations High Level Pledging Conference here last month.
“Justice and fairness requires that the burden of building a more climate resilient community, should not fall to the victims of climate change alone.” The prime minister added that he was also concerned about the recent position of the Development Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) regarding eligibility for aid by so-called middle-income countries.
“The OECD position insists that aid would only be triggered if countries, impacted by disasters, suffer a long-term economic decline and that no existing aid is diverted,” Browne argued. “But, by the time aid is triggered in those circumstances, the economic decline and human suffering, as well as the long-term impact, would have plunged these countries into irreversible ruin.
“The OECD would be helpful if it reconsidered this position and adopt a more proactive and effective one.” Most of the Caribbean countries are categorized as middle-to high-income and are largely ineligible for concessional development financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), due to the use of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as a principal criterion.
Browne told the conference that the people of the Caribbean islands impacted by the hurricanes “through no fault of their own, call on this conference to pledge and deliver meaningful support, so that they can rebuild to withstand the dreadful effects of climate change in the future, and make their lives safer.”
He said climate change recognizes no borders, does not discriminate between big or small, developed or developing, rich or poor, Hindu, Muslim Christian or Jew. “All are involved,” said Browne. “All are consumed. But, of course, the small, the poor, and the vulnerable are the worst affected. And, affected not through their own fault, but because of the culpability of others.”
Browne said that in the Caribbean, “we now have a new category of citizens, climate refugees,” who have been made homeless, jobless and helpless by ferocious Category 5 hurricanes and have been forced to flee their motherlands. Browne said in the case of Barbuda, his administration does not have the resources to rebuild swiftly and the people of the island have themselves been stripped of the means of restoring their livelihood.
He said while some governments and agencies have provided relief to Barbuda’s residents who had to be evacuated to Antigua, the bulk of the cost of maintaining them has been met by his government.