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UN Secretary-General's remarks at 40th meeting of CARICOM [as delivered] 

Editing Office - Geneva 

Ladies and gentlemen, 
All protocol observed, 
 It is privilege to be with you in Saint Lucia. I thank the Caribbean Community and the Prime Minister and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government, Allen Chastanet, and Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque for the invitation to join you.

It is no surprise that just the way from the airport to this room with a short stop between the two Pitons was an enchanting experience. As Derek Walcott, one of Saint Lucia’s two Nobel Laureates, once said: “You cannot wake up in the Caribbean without a sense of astonishment.” But the beauty of St. Lucia and the uniqueness of the voice and way of life of each of the Caribbean islands is threatened by the particular challenges that Small Island Developing States face.

Today, I would like to focus on some of these challenges, especially climate change and other obstacles to sustainable development, including the imperatives of citizen security and building resilience and the importance of access to development finance. A little more than a month ago I visited the South Pacific and saw how Pacific island nations are addressing the climate crisis and approaching all their development investments through a climate lens. And it is just two years since I visited the Caribbean in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Years of hard-won development gains were destroyed in Barbuda and Dominica in only a couple of days. This was not the first time that the Caribbean has faced such devastation and loss and the immense challenge of rebuilding while safeguarding development achievements. Hurricanes Ivan and Thomas – and the many others that came before Irma and Maria – are still etched in the memories of Caribbean people.

As climate-related natural disasters grow in frequency and severity, the risks to families and to development overall will only intensify. The Caribbean experience makes abundantly clear that we must urgently reduce global emissions and work collectively to ensure that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. That is why I am asking all leaders, from governments and the private sector, to present plans – at my Climate Action Summit or at the latest by December 2020 – to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and get to carbon neutrality by 2050. We must massively increase our ambition to advance low-emission and resilient development, including addressing loss and damage from climate impacts. And we need all hands on deck to make this transformation possible. CARICOM and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre have taken the lead from the frontlines. You are our important allies in the fight against climate disruption. We hear your voices loud and clear in the negotiation halls. You have been stalwart advocates for a 1.5-degree threshold for over a decade, pushing leaders to devise new models of economic development and affordable, reliable energy access. Island nations in the Caribbean are fast becoming influential test beds for innovative climate action, such as investing in decentralized renewable energy. This will not only yield more economically sustainable sources of electricity, but it will provide clean energy solutions. Microgrids and decentralized solar energy systems will also ensure that power losses after storms will be shorter and less catastrophic to homes, hospitals and businesses. Investing in sustainable development also means investing more in concrete conservation and resilience measures. Around 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans annually. In the Caribbean, you see the impacts of this pollution. We need to fight climate change, we need to fight also against the degradation of oceans that unfortunately we have not been able to stop. We all have to act on a daily basis to counter these grave threats to marine ecosystems and the tourism sector -- that are so central to your economies. From plastic pollution to coastline erosion, more frequent extreme weather events, sea level rise and biodiversity loss, Caribbean states face immense pressure due to the actions that are committed, essentially, by others. I highly commend the leadership of CARICOM Heads in presenting a bold vision to make the Caribbean the world’s first Climate Resilient Zone. The creation of a Caribbean Resilience to Recovery Facility is an important development that should be fully supported. When fully functional, this Facility will provide a regional indigenous mechanism for sourcing talent, experience and financial solutions to support CARICOM members to build resilient communities and nations. I also must highlight that women are at the heart of the resilience equation. This is true in the Caribbean as it is elsewhere. As we shore up the resilience of Caribbean societies we must address the issue of citizen insecurity. Murder rates in parts of the Caribbean are still very significant. Violence against women and girls is a significant dimension of citizen insecurity, which increases in the wake of natural disasters and is an obstacle to resilient societies generally. I am therefore also pleased that the Spotlight Initiative will be partnering with CARICOM and six countries in the region to make substantial, focused investments – some 50 million euros – in prevention and redress for violence against women and girls. It is important that gender considerations underpin all our efforts to promote citizen security and sustainable development.  

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