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Devastated Island Leaders: Climate Change 'A Truth Which Hits Us'

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Hurricane-damaged Barbuda. Caribbean Community / Flickr

As residents in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands prepared to take cover from Hurricane Maria, representatives of island nations devastated by hurricanes made a plea to the UN for recovery funding.

In a hastily-convened special session, leaders of Barbuda, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and other nations detailed the billions of dollars needed to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and argued that the increasing impacts of climate change on island nations required a rethinking of how the UN provides humanitarian aid.


The intense hurricane season and climate change were top talking points for several officials at the UN yesterday. While criticizing President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron said the hurricanes were "the direct result of carbon dioxide emissions," while UN Secretary-General António Guterres said reducing emissions "must clearly be part" of responding to the hurricanes.

"There are lives being destroyed," Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said. "Irma is not a phenomenon in isolation, but an extreme symptom of a greater problem ... Climate change and its consequences should not be the subject of speculation or debate. It's a truth which hits us and which causes great uncertainty."

As reported by the New York Times:

"The issue of whether countries should be assured of some aid to rebuild from storms or droughts, or to relocate citizens if need be, is known in United Nations parlance as 'loss and damage.' The question of wealthy nations' responsibility for providing this compensation has never been fully resolved. Industrialized nations have consistently rejected being held legally liable for their decades of carbon pollution.

After a protracted debate, the Obama administration allowed the Paris agreement in 2015 to acknowledge the special needs of vulnerable countries, but American negotiators supported a provision saying that doing so 'does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.'"

For a deeper dive:

Island session: New York Times, Climate Home. Macron: CNN, LA Times. Commentary: The Guardian, Guy Hewitt op-ed

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