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SUVA, 25 September, 2017: The Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) stands in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and offers its deepest condolences to families that have lost loved ones and to all that have been affected by the recent fury of Hurricanes Irma and Maria that ravaged the Caribbean islands and also to the people of Mexico where 230 lives were lost from the powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

THE strongest hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in over 90 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across entire islands and triggered heavy flooding in an onslaught that has also claimed a number of lives and affected the livelihoods of millions. Hurricane Maria rapidly intensified from a category 1 storm to the category 5 monster with 160 mph winds in only 15 hours.

“We reiterate our call for a global moratorium on new coal mining, coal-powered plants and coal-related investments and a full fossil fuel phase-out from developing and emerging countries that are currently not willing to make the shift fast enough, in particular our so called Pacific big brother, Australia, and as we have said before and we say it again, we will see more and more of these powerful Category 4-5 storms that have the potential to totally ravage our Pacific island countries, just like it did in the Caribbean” said the PIDF Secretary General, François Martel.

Secretary General Martel who is currently attending the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York said that now is the time for genuine partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector to truly implement climate action which is the only way forward to reach the Paris Agreement targets and avoid a future of regular category 5 cyclones.

He met and conveyed the PIDF members’ thoughts and solidarity with the Ambassador of CARICOM to the United Nations and the Ambassadors of Dominica, the Bahamas and Grenada while in New York.

 “We in the Pacific know what the people of the Caribbean are going through because we saw and felt the mayhem left behind by Tropical cyclones Winston and Pam that hit Fiji and Vanuatu respectively. There certainly is more that needs to be done to redirect attention on climate action and serious investment in building climate resilience, instead of disaster response and management. It’s a simple question of survival for our islands”.

 “The United Nations needs to enhance assistance and investment in changing the energy strategies of emerging countries towards renewable energy and provide them the tools and finance that will allow them to leap-frog from lack of energy to affordable and clean energy,” further commented the Secretary General from New York.

Studies have shown that flooding and mega-storms were by far the leading cause of disaster from 2000-2010. About 80% of the 3,496 disasters of the last decade were due to flooding and storms. Seas are rising because of climate change. So are extreme rain storms. There is growing evidence that warming temperatures are increasing the destructive force of hurricanes. Warm water provides the fuel for hurricanes. Climate change has heated up ocean waters around the world by 1-3°F over the past century, including in regions where hurricanes develop. That allows hurricanes to grow stronger, potentially increasing their maximum wind speed. One study indicates that hurricanes are intensifying more quickly than 30 years ago.

According to disaster relief agencies, in 2016, more than 31 million people fled disasters in 125 countries and territories. Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide. As climate change continues, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards. On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. That’s one person forced to flee every second.