UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries to implement the Paris Agreement and asked for more donations for the Caribbean nations that were damaged in this year’s severe hurricane season.
“I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need … But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor. I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come,” Guterres told reporters.
The United Nations has launched appeals to raise the 114 million US dollars needed to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate future, he said.
To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region, including 18 tons of food, 3 million water purification tablets, 3,000 water tanks, 2,500 tents and 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits, said Guterres.
According to the Antigua Observer, the Chinese government has announced that it will donate 2.5 million US dollars to support the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts to rebuild Barbuda, which was decimated by Hurricane Irma several weeks ago.
The UN chief will travel to Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica on Saturday to visit UN operations, survey the damage and assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover.
Trees and branches are seen on a street after being torn down by strong winds as hurricane Irma hit Miami, Florida, the United States, September 10, 2017. /Xinhua Photo
In an encounter with the UN press corps prior to his trip, Guterres said he was particularly impressed by the speeches from the leaders of the Caribbean nations during late September’s General Debate of the UN General Assembly.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless as a result of Hurricane Irma. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front-line of the war on climate change,” Guterres noted.
The Caribbean region was battered by two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, within two weeks in September, suffering tremendous damage.
Guterres urges implementation of Paris Agreement
In addition to providing assistance to hurricane-hit Caribbean nations, Guterres stressed the importance of combating climate change, particularly the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
“When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders, including from the hardest hit countries. Yes, they said, we urgently need support today. But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.”
Guterres said there is compelling evidence for climate change. “As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world.”
Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days, the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 km/h for 37 hours, the longest on record at that intensity, he said.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico, he noted.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) next to US President Donald Trump during a session on reforming the United Nations at UN Headquarters in New York, US, September 18, 2017. /Reuters Photo
He stressed the need to implement the Paris Agreement, saying the global accord is “the best foundation for the future.”
“What is important is that the Paris Agreement is the solid foundation that allows us to have the ambition to go further and make sure that we do not have a warming of the planet at catastrophic levels that would happen if we move on as we are.”
On the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, Guterres said US society – states, cities, and businesses – is still committed despite the position of the White House.
Asked whether he had a chance to point out this fact with US President Donald Trump, the UN chief said: “It is clear that there is a different perspective on this issue. I have not yet lost my hope that what is happening will be making those that are still skeptical about climate change to be more and more realizing that this, indeed, is a major threat for the international community at the present moment.”