Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have launched an ambitious plan to create the world’s first “climate smart zone” after two Category 5 hurricanes caused widespread devastation and death in the Lesser Antilles in September.
The Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition aims to find a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments.
The leaders are of the opinion that with the right domestic and international reforms, the world can step up – and help unleash the means to catalyse an ambitious eight billion US dollar investment plan to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to 3.2 million Caribbean households.
They said this would help Caribbean islands to eliminate their costly dependency on fossil fuels so that they can meet close to 100 per cent percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, and to embed resilience into communities and livelihoods to realise the bold ambitions of all Caribbean people.
The announcement of the new initiative was made at the One Planet Summit being hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron to review progress made on the Paris Agreement adopted by global governments two years ago.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping, said “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. 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,’ Mitchell said.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose island, Dominica, was severely hit by Hurricane Maria on September 18, resulting in millions of dollars in damage, said that ”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,” he added.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said “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. 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,” he added.
Supported by funding and resources from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, the World Bank Group and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) a Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator with an estimated budget of six to US$10 million for a three-year period is being established to catalyse billions of further public and private resources.
Caribbean leaders say they hope the coalition of financial institutions will invigorate the islands that have been impacted by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria, and help build more resilient infrastructure and communities across the region as the likelihood of future extreme weather events increases.
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.
CDB president Dr. Warren Smith, 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,” he added.
IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno said his organisation “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 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.”
For his part, the World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim, 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.”
Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said the next hurricane season is only six months away so achieving climate-smart and resilient development for the Caribbean is critical.
“Affected individuals are the focus of the five billion dollars 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 $2.5 billion was pledged at a conference co-organized 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,” he added.
Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group, said much of the Caribbean has been going through immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes.
“But I never had any doubts about the spirit and the resilience of Caribbean people. They have come together and decided to turn the Caribbean into a spark of hope for the world.
“The work of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition will help to break down the remaining barriers between vision and reality, and will see the region not only recover from the catastrophic impacts of Irma and Maria. It will set a shining example of resilient reconstruction and clean energy transition,” he said.
Specifically, the Coalition’s work will focus on catalysing four initial critical priorities, namely 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.
It will also be aimed at creating 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 and strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries and key regional institutions to plan for long-term resilience and climate smart growth strategies.
Chair of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, Mary Robinson, said “climate justice is all of our responsibility.
“We must stand alongside all the people of the Small Island Nations who will be most impacted by climate change. The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have been devastating to watch, with people still homeless, without electricity and without livelihoods.
“We need to provide support in the form of immediate relief, and we also need to start working with them to build a resilient future where the people of the Caribbean can thrive. I’m thrilled to see the “Caribbean Climate Smart Coalition” being announced in Paris. It is wonderful to see Caribbean Leaders coming together with partners from all over the world to ensure that the Caribbean can serve as a beacon of hope for other Island Nations,” she said.
In a statement, the RISE Fund said it is committed to investing in businesses that create positive and measurable social or environmental impact alongside competitive financial returns.
“We’re excited about the Coalition’s work to help rebuild the power infrastructure in the Caribbean to provide more cost effective, resilient, and cleaner power. We look forward to working with the Coalition to identify investment opportunities that will drive positive commercial outcomes while helping to rebuild and strengthen local communities across the Caribbean,” the Fund added.