After surviving two Category 5 hurricanes this fall, the Caribbean resembled something of a war zone, according to Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
And so what the island nations of the region need now is a post-war plan for redevelopment — a plan he’s calling the “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan,” named after the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II.
The plan will be focused on bringing a “green energy revolution” to the region, Branson told Reuters.
The Caribbean spans 2.8 million square miles and is home to 37 million people — many of whom live in poverty. While poverty levels on islands like Jamaica, Barbuda, Dominica, and the British and US Virgin Islands vary widely, the region as a whole has struggled to build strong economies, according to the Caribbean Development Bank.
In this Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, photo, damage is left after Hurricane Irma hit Barbuda. Hurricane Irma battered the Turks and Caicos Islands early Friday as the fearsome Category 5 storm continued a rampage through the Caribbean that has killed a number of people, with Florida in its sights.
The billionaire inventor and businessman, who owns a private island in the Caribbean where he rode out Hurricane Irma with his staff, is working with global leaders including the International Monetary Fund to help rebuild the islands, according to the report.
Branson is insisting that the islands rebuild their energy grid on sustainable, renewable sources rather than fossil fuels.
"Another storm could strike within the coming weeks," Branson told a meeting of leaders in Washington earlier this month. "The Caribbean must seize the opportunity and take the leap from 20th-century technology to 21st-century innovation.”
A home is surrounded by debris brought in by Hurricane Irma in Nagua, Dominican Republic, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. Irma flooded parts of the Dominican Republic when it roared by Thursday, just off the northern coast of the island it shares with Haiti.
The Washington meeting was hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, according to the Digital Journal.
Branson is the owner of a wind energy company that already operates in the Caribbean, according to the UN-backed website Climate Action, which noted that solar and wind energy is cheaper and easier for island nations to obtain than importing fossil fuels.
At the meeting in Washington, Branson said the destruction on his own Necker Island and neighboring islands was like that of a nuclear blast, according to DJ.
Now, the inventor and CEO hopes to forge an international fund for the island nations by working with government and business leaders. Branson already met with the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, and together the pair are working on debt relief options for the islands, according to the Journal.
The Marshall Plan was a $13 billion plan — or about $132 billion in modern-day money — created by the United States to help rebuild Western European countries, the Journal reported.
“We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier," he said. “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea."
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