Activist Riddhi Samtani is drawing international attention to St. Martin at the UN climate summit in Dubai. Her island cannot turn to the climate funds for help, while residents do feel the effects of climate change.

An international compensation fund has been launched in Dubai for poorer countries that have contributed least to the effects of climate change. St Martin is also such a country, says Samtani (27), but it cannot claim help. She says this in a report by the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

St. Martin was hit by the devastating Hurricane Irma in 2017. The Netherlands came to the rescue with 550 million euros through the World Bank, but after six years the reconstruction is still not complete. This is mainly due to bureaucracy.

Samtani believes that the Netherlands should come up with an approach for the entire Kingdom, so that all six islands are more resilient to, for example, sea level rise, heat, and extreme weather. “Climate change doesn‘t only affect one part of the Kingdom, but all of us.”

She wonders why the Netherlands helps foreign countries with innovative measures against sea level rise, but not our islands. “For example, the Netherlands is helping Bangladesh with delta works. You don’t see that innovation in the rest of the Kingdom.”

Where are the climate plans?

“It is true that we already have climate plans in the European Netherlands, but the Caribbean islands are not included in them,” says Daphina Misiedjan, lecturer in Human Rights and Environment at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

For the special Caribbean municipalities of Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius, this ‘only got off the ground last year, while the climate treaties have been in force since the 1990s’.

The islands are dependent on the Netherlands for financing, for example, because the Kingdom is seen as one rich country.

One kingdom

“There is tension there,” said Misiedjan in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “On the one hand, the European Netherlands says: the islands have to do it themselves. International law says: no, you have to work it out together because you are one kingdom.”

The six islands of our Kingdom cannot turn to the UN for help, and ‘to a lesser extent’ to the EU. The Hague believes that Aruba and Sint Maarten should take action themselves because they are autonomous countries. “It is really important that the European Netherlands take certain measures.”