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I wish first of all to extend sincere congratulations to you on your appointment, and extend best wishes to you for a successful, satisfying and productive tenure.
We live at a critical and defining moment in the history of our planet, and decisions and commitments made under your chairmanship, will be as important as any made before, in determining our collective stewardship of the planet and the quality of life of all for whom it is home.
My Delegation and I, also recognize and congratulate our fellow CARICOM sister State, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for its election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the period 2020 to 2022.
As the smallest nation State to accomplish this historic feat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines gives assurance to all small States, that they too can sit as equals among the much larger, richer and more powerful Member States, and let their voices be heard on matters affecting global interest and security.
I extend warmest greetings to you all, from the grateful people of the Commonwealth of Dominica. We are profoundly thankful for all the attention and support from this body, its Member States and specialized agencies, in the aftermath of the massive devastation inflicted on us by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Two years ago, when Dominica lay in ruins, after being ravaged by the Category 5 Hurricane Maria, our Prime Minister, Honorable Roosevelt Skerrit stood at this rostrum a mere five days later, to address this august body.
Prime Minister Skerrit indicated then his resolve to set Dominica on a path to becoming the first climate resilient nation in the world. Our Climate Resilience Recovery Plan is nearing completion, our new implementing agency CREAD, is fully operational and the resilience building work has begun.
Thousands of homes have been repaired and rebuilt and hundreds more contracted to be built. New resilient housing units are being constructed all over the island. Public utilities have all been restored. All children are back in schools as of January, 2018, although some schools remain to be rebuilt.
The road network has been vastly improved and most of the damaged or destroyed bridges, have been repaired or are being rebuilt to higher standards. The rivers and water courses have been dredged and the greenery has returned to the hills, valleys and mountains.
Practically everyone visiting Dominica in recent times, has described the transformation of the country after Maria, as miraculous, and indeed it is.
We acknowledge that we have not done it alone. We are doing it together; you, the global community, including non-governmental organizations, and faith based organizations, many of whom are still dutifully at work in Dominica as I speak, are playing your part.
All of Dominica says thanks and we recognize that we owe you an everlasting debt of gratitude. We also hasten to say that the task is far from complete. Building resilience is a momentous and expensive task.
One of the deficiencies of the international system is the long gestation period between pledges and commitments, and the delivery on those promises. We urge those of you who have pledged to support us in creating this new, climate resilient nation, to deliver.
Time is of the essence!
As we meet, more and more evidence is emerging, that a new chapter is being written by the forces of nature and the evidence is right before our eyes. This chapter speaks to the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and as we deliberate this week, many countries are reeling under its devastating effects.
For many island States, and particularly so for the smallest ones, the message being sent, is that rising sea levels, violent tropical storms and hurricanes, periods of severe drought, alternating with floods and forest fires, new plant diseases, vector borne diseases such as Chikungunya and Zika, present an existential threat.
The time for action is now!
GLOBAL WARMING ADVANCING FASTER
Competent scientific authorities are now advising that the rate of global warming is proceeding faster than was originally believed.
The impacts of climate change are cross cutting, affecting every sector and every facet of life on earth. Notwithstanding commitments made to take action to slow the rate of global warming, too many countries continue to pursue the same policies, which are contributing to nature’s angry response to our overindulgence and reckless exploitation of our planet’s resources.
If the devastating impacts of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 did not convince us, we can look to the calamity of Hurricane Dorian in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas just a few weeks ago.
Dominica stands in solidarity with the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama, two island communities of the Bahamas Archipelago, whose lives and livelihoods, have been devastated by the destructive forces of the Category 5 storm, Hurricane Dorian, which inflicted total destruction and considerable loss of life.
As the experts have predicted, these tropical storms are becoming more frequent and more intense, with rising sea temperatures. What they did not predict, is that a storm of such ferocity, could virtually sit over an island for over forty hours, wreaking incalculable havoc.
We are left with no choice but to accept, that Category 5 hurricanes may be becoming the new norm. There is need therefore for us to go back to the drawing board, in order to reassess national approaches to risk mitigation and disaster preparedness.
But it is not only on Small Island States that Climate Change is having an impact; there are heart wrenching reports and disturbing images of flooded cities and severe droughts, that are driving millions from their traditional homes and occupations.
The result is homelessness, starvation, and mental anguish. Soon, the phenomenon of climate refugees will also be a new norm. And then Mr. President, there are forest fires, not only in Brazil and the Amazon region, but here in the United States, in Europe, in the Far East.
When fire strikes your neighborhood, Mr. President, you do not hold a meeting to determine if your neighbours are insured. You call out the fire brigade.
And this is what we need now, urgent action. Our planet is on fire and we must take immediate steps to quell it.
Dominica reaffirms its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, and again pleads for release of the resources pledged, to implement actions designed to reduce risk and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
We applaud the leadership shown by the UK Government in assisting countries like Dominica build greater resilience against the effects of climate change.
We thank those nations that have recently committed to double their pledges and increase resources to the Green Climate Fund and to make further resources available to Small Island Developing States, to help us adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change. However the issue of accessibility and timely disbursement of funds must be addressed, if the urgency of our needs are to be met.
BECOMING THE FIRST CLIMATE RESILIENT NATION IN THE WORLD
In pursuit of the vision to become the world’s first climate resilient nation, we have prepared a National Resilient Development Strategy (NRDS).
The NRDS is a broad framework which provides the roadmap and guidelines for taking the country to climate resilience by 2030. Detailed targets and plans to achieve them are articulated in greater detail and precision in sector strategies. It is a live document, which will be adjusted and updated every four years based on annual monitoring and evaluation exercises and data emerging from new studies and surveys.
Following Hurricane Maria, which caused damage and loss estimated at 226% of our Gross Domestic Product, great urgency was given to rebuilding the country, and to build back better. However, experience has taught us that a new approach to project management and implementation had to be adopted, if intended targets were to be met in a timely manner.
To assist in overcoming this potential challenge, the Government established by statute (The Climate Resilience Act N0. 16 of 2018) the Climate Resilient Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD), to develop a Climate Resilience and Recovery Plan, coordinate reconstruction work and facilitate the smooth and efficient implementation of projects.
My Government is most appreciative of the support provided by our bilateral partners who have worked with us in setting up the CREAD and we are especially grateful to the British Government, operating through the Department for International Development (DFID), to Canada and the World Bank for their support in its establishment and operation.
Dominica by any measure, is an insignificant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Notwithstanding this, we believe our actions must match the spirit of the climate conventions we have signed.
We have therefore developed a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Development Strategy. The strategy emphasizes the development and use of renewable energy to fuel our development, and as a means of earning export revenue.
A recently completed Resilient and Sustainable Energy Plan confirms that Dominica is in the position to:
- Generate approximately 90% of the country’s electricity needs, using renewable sources, primarily geothermal, by 2029
- Realize a reduction in the annual cost and volume of diesel fuel used for electricity generation by 94%; and
- Reduce the total cost to generate electricity, between 2020 and 2038 by at least 44%.
Serious initiatives to exploit the country’s geothermal potential, commenced in 2008, with financial support coming mainly from the European Union and the Government of France.
Following extensive geothermal exploration, it was confirmed in 2012, that the reservoir in the Roseau Valley, which was the subject of exploration, had a potential of 120 megawatts. This would not only satisfy domestic needs, but could potentially produce electricity for export to the neighboring French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, thus reducing their own carbon footprint.
This painstaking work conducted over six years, speaks to the arduous task of developing a renewable resource such as geothermal, in order to reduce the associated risks, and cause a bankable project to emerge. Notwithstanding fiscal challenges along the way, Government stuck to its commitment to provide initial funding for the project. As the project stands today, a financing package totalling US$27 million has been signed with the World Bank, for construction of an initial 7 megawatt geothermal plant; construction will most likely begin early in the new year.
A ZONE OF PEACE
Dominica, as are all other CARICOM countries, is committed to the principle of preserving the Caribbean as a zone of peace.
It is inevitable that from time to time, differences will arise between and among various interest groups within a state. While we will always be available to act as mediators in resolving internal conflicts, we believe in and will forever adhere to, the principle of non- interference in the internal affairs of other States.
We hold this to be a universal principle, not one to be selectively employed and discarded where ideological differences arise.
Wherever there are uneasy tensions among States, and differences in interpretations of the Constitution within a State, that trigger civil unrest, we call for restraint and for resorting to the table of negotiation and dialogue, to resolve such differences. The other options only serve to prolong and intensify human misery and suffering, and violate the principles on which this august body was founded.
The climate is at war with our Member States; let us not aggravate the situation by creating hostility and war among ourselves, particularly in this hemisphere.
We support the One China Policy and call for dialogue to achieve the peaceful reunification of China;
We support dialogue and negotiations to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula;
We support dialogue and negotiations to resolve the disputes in the Middle East, including the possibility of a nuclear arms race;
We again call for an end to the unjustified, continued economic blockade against Cuba, so as to free up the vast potential of the Cuban people, to take up their rightful role in the global economic and trading system.
We also call for an end to the unilateral sanctions imposed against Venezuela, which we believe is serving no useful purpose and which rather serves to cause misery and suffering to the Venezuelan people. We continue to call for dialogue and for countries to support the peaceful mediation amongst disputing parties within Venezuela, to achieve an outcome that will serve the best interests of all Venezuelans.
Let us all adhere to the provisions of Article 2 of the UN Charter, particularly in this hemisphere, where we should aspire to become a zone of peace and development.
I thank you Mr. President.