Climate change realities in Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean

Impacts of climate change can already be felt today and adverse impacts are expected to increase in the
future. The causes of such negative effects include both extreme events and slow onset events. There are important interrelationships between extreme and slow onset events, as in the case of drought. In the Caribbean there has been an increasing trend in the recorded number of weather and climate hazards and their associated impacts. Climate change poses significant risks both to the people and economies of the Caribbean region by exacerbating the islands’ existing vulnerabilities. While it is challenging to measure comprehensive and long-term impacts of current weather and climate events, it is even more dificult to quantify residual risks associated with projected climate change. Common challenges faced by Caribbean nations in responding to disasters include: Strong dependence on
external humanitarian assistance and grants, the need to give up planned developmental priorities and re-channel funds to disaster response, incurrence of additional debts in an effort to close the financing gap, limited capacities in risk management and continuous set-backs in socio-economic and environmental recovery and rehabilitation due to the recurrence and accumulation of adverse impacts.

The Caribbean experiences point to the need for a comprehensive, structured approach at the local, national, regional and international levels to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change. Such an approach must be
based on donor harmonisation and address all phases of the climate and disaster risk management process. In
particular, innovative approaches to address impacts associated with slow onset events should be explored.
A comprehensive climate and disaster risk management strategy, in particular through weather-indexed insurance
schemes, may represent the best way to turn the issue into action on the ground.