Prime Minister Andrew Holness says while small island developing states (SIDS) like Jamaica make efforts to improve their fiscal management and debt sustainability, “a single climate event” could “wipe out 100 per cent” of their economy in just a few hours.
Holness is contending that comprehensive, targeted approach to accessing development finance is needed, so that small island developing nations like Jamaica can effectively recover from climate shocks.
In a lengthy address to the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Holness said the need to develop strategies to combat the “threats” of climate change on SIDS like Jamaica is urgent, as it will determine their survival or otherwise.
“Climate change is an immediate existential threat for SIDS like Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Pacific,” he told the UN Assembly.
“Concerted action to slow down and halt global temperature rise is literally a question of our survival. While we will continue to develop our own resilience and play our part in mitigating climate change, we cannot, by our action alone, change the trajectory,” the prime minister said.
He told the assembly that Jamaica looks forward to the convening of the Conference of Parties (COP27) in Egypt later this year.
“We call on all countries to meet their commitments and contributions to climate targets. And we call on the developed world to increase their commitments and ambitions in climate financing, particularly for adaptation and for loss and damage,” urged Holness.
Meanwhile, he reiterated that SIDS and some middle-income countries are faced with a situation where they are forced in a cycle of borrowing in order to survive economic shocks and restore lost and damaged infrastructure.
“… They (these countries) are forced to borrow, only to be confronted with again, in a few years, with another round of natural disasters which could wipe out significant infrastructure and force us to add to high debt,” he declared.
He said he was monitoring the then tropical wave – now Tropical Storm Ian – that has been threatening the Caribbean, as an example of what such states have to deal with.
“Jamaica believes that a comprehensive, targeted approach to accessing development finance is needed,” Holness stated.
“We fully support the work of the high-level panel developing the multi-dimensional vulnerability index.
“We eagerly anticipate an era of truly equitable access to concessional financing and other funding support, which will enable us to invest in resilient infrastructure and create fiscal buffers so that we can withstand and recover quickly from the next economic, health or climate shock with little worry,” he stated.
Even as he called for reforms of the global financial architecture to account for vulnerability, the prime minister shared that Jamaica is exercising great fiscal discipline.
“It has been a long, hard struggle, but we have lowered our debt-to-GDP ratio from stratospheric levels a decade ago, and we continue to pursue policies to ensure we can drive down our debt,” Holness told members of the UN Assembly.
Additionally, he said the country is building fiscal buffers so it can better respond to shocks.
Jamaica, said Holness, is also working with development partners in areas such as floating a catastrophe bond “to ensure against climate disasters, but most importantly, we are mainstreaming climate resilience in all our infrastructure investments.”
In the meantime, Holness said as an island, Jamaica is “keenly attuned” to the importance of protecting and sustainably using its ocean and marine resources.
He said Jamaica, too, recognises that urgent action is needed to address the health and sustainability of the oceans.
“Jamaica joins the global community in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which opened for adoption in Montego Bay, Jamaica on the 10th of December, 1982.
“The convention is a testament to the power of multilateralism… The convention has yielded immense benefits since its entry into force,” stated Holness