Alfonso Munera: “Our Main Focus is to Strengthen the Unity of the Caribbean”
The upcoming summit attended by heads of state and government of the Caribbean countries on Saturday will call for unity to tackle the climate change problem.
"Our main focus is to strengthen the unity of the Caribbean and to build a dialogue in order to face the negative impacts of climate change," Alfonso Munera, secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday.
The ACS is a pan-national body in charge of consultation, cooperation and concerted action in trade, transport, sustainable tourism and natural disasters among the Caribbean countries.
On June 4, the VII Summit of the ACS themed "Together for a Sustainable Caribbean" will kick off in the Cuban capital of Havana.
"Climate change is one of the most important problems that humanity has to face. We need to persuade the rest of the world, especially developed countries," said the secretary general.
Munera called the Caribbean "one of the most fragile areas in the world", saying "in some ways, we are now the victims of climate change and we deserve the international resources to deal with that problem."
Seventy percent of the beaches in the Caribbean are shrinking every year due to climate change, putting the region's population and tourism at risk, according to a report newly published by the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Consequences of climate change such as coastal erosion, sea-level rise and natural disasters are the main concerns of some Caribbean countries. "We have at least 12 Caribbean countries that essentially live on tourism. What will happen if the coasts are eroded and the beaches are destroyed in these countries?" Munera asked.
During the summit, leaders and representatives of the Caribbean countries, including Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, will discuss a series of projects to tackle the problem of climate change.
"This is only the first phase. Our resources will not be enough. We need international resources in order to continue with this ambitious plan." Munera said.
Munera spoke highly of China's efforts to work with other countries to tackle climate change. "China is making important contributions to the Caribbean region. We all respect China as one of the most important countries today, because of its resources and its knowledge," he said.
"China has the real possibility to contribute decisively to handling the impacts of climate change in the Caribbean." Munera added.
Last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will make 20 billion yuan available (3 billion U.S. dollars) for the China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund, which will support other developing countries in their fight against climate change.
Speaking of the cooperation between the Caribbean countries and China, Munera said "it has been extraordinary from 2000 to 2015," while "investment from China to the Caribbean has seen the biggest growth in the last 15 years."
Besides climate change, sustainable tourism will also be an important topic during the summit. Munera noted that tourism cooperation with China will be a boost to the economy of the Caribbean.
"More and more Chinese people travel around the world nowadays. I know a great portion of tourists from China coming to the Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and the Bahamas," Munera said.
"The Caribbean is trying to attract investment and tourists from China," Munera added, saying one of the main tasks for the Caribbean to reach this target is to improve connectivity.
"This is why countries like Jamaica is trying to get direct flights to China," he said.