Environment

Caribbean leaders launch ambitious plan to create the world's first “climate-smart zone”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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Paris, FRANCE — Caribbean leaders yesterday announced the launch of a new public-private coalition to create the world's first “climate-smart zone” in the region, which is still reeling from the unprecedented devastation wrought by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Supported by funding and resources from the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the World Bank Group and the Caribbean Development Bank, the voluntary coalition comprises governments, regional and global public institutions, business and civil society working together to adopt and scale novel approaches to climate-smart infrastructure. With an estimated budget of US$6m - US$10m for a three-year period, it is being established to catalyse billions more public and private resources.

It aims to find a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to communities across the region as the likelihood of future extreme weather events increases.

The announcement came at the One Planet Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, to review progress made on the Paris Agreement adopted by governments two years ago, yesterday.

The coalition's charter says: “We seize this moment in 2017 to reject business-as-usual approaches and to envision a better future for the planet in which Caribbean nations and their peoples may prosper and thrive in the face of climate change, by implementing their own commitments with the help of partners while serving as global exemplars and path-finders for action needed by the global community.”

Coalition members will help to establish partnerships that can make investment deals happen. They will also bring their collective abilities together to break down the technological and financial barriers which represent the last obstacles to Caribbean people grasping the transformational opportunities that are in reach.

Specifically, the coalition's work will focus on catalysing four initial critical priorities:

• 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. Build platforms to help facilitate the large public and private investments required.

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

“Caribbean leaders have come together as a powerful collective to build a better future for the people of the Caribbean. We welcome the financial commitments from our partners – around US$1.3 billion for recovery efforts and US$2.8 billion toward the vision shared by all members of the coalition and others. This is a great first step,” said prime minister of Grenada and Chair of Caricom, Keith Mitchell.

“Now we need to turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people. We all need to work together to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean and other small island developing states. Together we can build thriving economies fuelled by clean energy, nature-based resilient design and innovation. The time for action is now,” he said.

Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit said: “Despite the immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes, the people of the Caribbean do not want to be just passive victims of climate change. Rather, they want to be active participants in designing and implementing solutions, and for their Caribbean region to serve as a beacon of hope for island nations all over the world.”

Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, put things squarely into perspective.

“The next hurricane season is only six months away, so achieving climate-smart and resilient development for the Caribbean is critical,” he said.

“Affected individuals are the focus of the $5-billion recovery process, but this effort will only be successful if it involves the private sector, civil society and governments at all levels working together for a more resilient Caribbean. Last month, close to US$2.5 billion was pledged at a conference co-organised by Caricom and UNDP for recovery and resilience in the Caribbean, and it is our objective to facilitate joint efforts with the work of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition.”

Luis Alberto Moreno, Inter-American Development Bank Group president, said: “The IDB Group reaffirms its continued and historical commitment to the Caribbean, and will work with leaders of the region to improve lives by creating climate-smart and vibrant economies where people are safe, productive, and happy. We hope that through this [Caribbean] Climate Smart Coalition, in addition to offering new affordable financing, we will use our wide physical presence on the ground to work closely with the people of the region to design their Caribbean of the future, today.”

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group president, said: “The Caribbean is in the 'eye of the storm', and we need coordinated international support to rebuild and better plan for the future. At the World Bank Group, we welcome the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition and plan to support it so countries get back on their feet and are better able to deal with the growing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes.”

Warren Smith, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, said: “The destruction our region experienced during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season emphasises that we cannot afford to take a business-as-usual approach in tackling climate change. CDB therefore welcomes the establishment of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition. The bank shares the vision of the coalition, and we look forward to supporting and investing in solutions to accelerate progress towards achieving this goal.

Comments also came from Sir Richard Branson, founder — Virgin Group; THE RISE Fund; Mary Robinson, chair of the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice; and Allen Chastanet, prime minister of St Lucia.

“Ultimately, we will only win the battle on climate change when investments in climate action and broader resilience become the economically sensible decision to make every time,” Chastanet said.

“It's not just about protecting against negative impacts — climate action needs to be about enhancing competitiveness, creating jobs, improving our economies. Otherwise, our people cannot make the sacrifices needed. I'm pleased by the level of support from our coalition partners and others. But I'm excited about the possibility for the Caribbean to incubate new powerful ideas and accelerate their implementation.”

The charter has been adopted by Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands, and US Virgin Islands.

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