Caribbean must act on this great first step

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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We are heartened by news coming out of the One Planet Summit in Paris earlier this month regarding the launch of a public-private coalition to create the world's first “climate-smart zone” in the Caribbean.

This coalition is supported by funding and resources from the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the World Bank Group, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and comprises governments, regional and global public institutions, business and civil society which will work together to adopt and scale novel approaches to climate-smart infrastructure.

An estimated budget of US$6 million to US$10 million over a three-year period is expected to help the coalition generate billions more in public and private resources. Essentially, the coalition is being tasked to:

• scale renewable energy as rapidly as possible to help free Caribbean countries from the high cost of imported fossil fuels and the high vulnerability of centralised distribution systems;

• build low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, including nature-based approaches, to better withstand future extreme weather events;

• create innovative financing models such as a debt-for-resilience swap initiative, in exchange for demonstrated progress on policy reforms, and investments to strengthen resilience and promote climate-smart growth pathways, as well as build platforms to help facilitate the large public and private investments required; and

• strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries and key regional institutions to plan for long-term resilience and climate-smart growth strategies.

We share the view of Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell that this is a great first step, as we have, for many years, been advocating in this space that Caribbean governments put in place measures that will improve the region's ability to cope with the debilitating effects of climate change.

As Mr Mitchell correctly stated, the Caribbean needs to “turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people”. He also argued that combined action was needed “to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean and other small island developing states... [and] build thriving economies fuelled by clean energy, nature-based resilient design and innovation”.

This news is particularly heartening, especially after the devastation suffered by a number of Caribbean islands during this year's extremely active Atlantic Hurricane Season.

That reality was highlighted by Mr Warren Smith, the president of the CDB, who reportedly reminded the summit that the scale of the destruction “emphasises that we cannot afford to take a business-as-usual approach in tackling climate change”.

He welcomed the establishment of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition and said that the CDB looks forward to supporting and investing in solutions to accelerate progress towards achieving the coalition's goal.

We don't expect that all that needs to be done will be accomplished overnight, as the task is huge. However, for those politicians and technocrats in the public service who expend more energy on talking than acting, we suggest that they heed the advice of Mr Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme: “The next hurricane season is only six months away, so achieving climate-smart and resilient development for the Caribbean is critical.”




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