Sun, Oct 15, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Caribbean needs to become ‘climate-smart’: Branson

AFP, WASHINGTON

British tycoon Richard Branson on Friday called for rebuilding the hurricane-thrashed Caribbean with more durable housing and relying on sustainable sources of energy, to limit the damage of future storms.

Branson, who rode out category-5 hurricanes Irma and Maria last month on his private Necker Island in the British Virgin islands, compared the devastation in the region to that of a nuclear blast.

However, Branson said the region’s leaders need to take the long view and invest more to better survive meteorological disasters.

With global warming, the annual hurricane season could just worsen, he said.

“Another storm could strike within the coming weeks,” he said. “The Caribbean must seize the opportunity and take the leap from 20th century technology to 21st century innovation.”

“These island states have a great opportunity to build greener and more resilient communities than ever before, setting shining examples of what climate-smart recovery around the world can and should look like,” Branson said.

Branson, who founded Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic airline, said that for one, the region was too dependent on imported fuels and centralized power systems.

In some countries, imported fuel consumes up to a quarter of GDP, he said, adding that compared to that, solar power comes cheap.

Power grids need to be distributed rather than centralized, so that one failure does not bring down the entire system, he added. “The time is now to make this happen.”

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