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SADC Climate-smart Zone – Key To Alleviating The Impact Of Natural Disasters

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Earlier this year, Cyclone Idai devastated Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe by leaving more than 1,000 people dead, thousands more missing, and damages in the billions. These storms were among the recent reminders of how climate change multiplies the power of natural disasters causing severe and catastrophic damage — destroying lives and property, leaving large and lasting effects on economies by reducing production and increasing debt burdens. 

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) should take the Caribbean’s lead in building resilience to mitigate the impact of climate change. Besides its captivating beauty, one thing Caribbean nations have in common is vulnerability to frequent and costly natural disasters. In a study conducted CRED between 1994 and 2013, which included 6,873 natural disasters worldwide, it found that natural disasters in the Caribbean claimed 1.35 million lives or almost 68,000 lives on average each year, and affected 218 million people per annum during this 20-year period.

During my tenure as Prime Minister, Haiti faced a near-impossible task of trying to rebuild the country after the 2010 ‘Armageddon’ of an earthquake that set us back 50 years. The devastation to infrastructure was catastrophic, and the loss of life devastating. Our experience in Haiti in 2010 saw us tackle the mammoth task of re-housing 1.5 million people, and rebuilding critical infrastructure with very limited resources.

In the Caribbean, as with Southern Africa, the challenge is similar, how to implement mitigation strategies that can better prepare countries for natural disasters. We know that climate change dramatically increases the severity of weather conditions. Also, these disasters tend to disproportionately affect the poor, who have a limited ability to cope with the impact. Many of the communities in these regions live in high-risk areas with weak infrastructure. Moreover, the economies rely heavily on sectors sensitive to weather, such as tourism and agriculture, while capacity and resources to manage risk are limited. 

It is for this reason that I, along with fellow politicians and philanthropists, established the world’s first “Climate-Smart Zone” and Accelerator. The Accelerator has created an unprecedented coalition including 26 countries and over 40 private and public sector partners which will implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy based on climate-smart infrastructure.

The Caribbean Accelerator has a vision which builds from the strategies of regional governments and agencies, including CARICOM and OECS. Although newly launch, it has already started to lay the foundations for success with initial Caribbean Climate-Smart projects. Notably the Inter-American Development Bank announced that it will partner with the Accelerator to program and implement the $1 billion in funds that it pledged at President Macron’s Paris One Planet summit.

As a not-for-profit organization, a climate-smart zone modernizes digital, physical and social infrastructure to address the challenges of climate change, and secure a low carbon future for the region. Ultimately it is able to build more resilient countries, cities and industries through private and public partnerships. This model can be replicated in other regions, and SADC leaders should consider the opportunities and solutions that this type of initiative could bring to its region.

I believe that through partnerships, such as the one formed in the Caribbean, SADC states would have the ability to transform the economies of the region that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Because these partnerships present the opportunity to fast-track climate action and economic growth, through sustainable development. 

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About the Author

Known as Haiti’s most successful and longest-serving Prime Minister , Laurent Lamothe is a visionary leader driven by a deep sense of global social responsibility. He is a thought leader in health, education, sustainable development and emerging markets. Lamothe’s approach is pragmatic, creative and far-sighted.

As the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Lamothe co-chaired the Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development and Investment together with former US President Bill Clinton, in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. He was largely responsible for the reconstruction of the country and was instrumental in relocating approximately 1.6 million people from the resulting tent camps, as well as removing 97% of the rubble that the earthquake caused. Four years after the earthquake, kidnappings had decreased by 55%; public investments had increased by 8%. There were almost 200 projects dedicated to the rebuilding of Haitian communities. Under Lamothe’s tenure the Word Bank recorded an unprecedented 5% drop in poverty (from 31% to 26%).

Lamothe is also a successful entrepreneur who leverages his business and management expertise to develop critical infrastructure in emerging nations. He co-founded the company Global Voice Group at the age of 26. In July 2015, Lamothe created LSL World Initiative, a private enterprise providing governments with solutions that assist them in implementing funding mechanisms to enable them to deliver sustainable development programs, in line with their needs and priorities.

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