SAINT LUCIA, Dec 19 (IPS) – Buoyed by $800 million in pledges to the Loss and Damage Fund and an unprecedented agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, but grounded in the reality of the work ahead to meet key climate targets, the Caribbean will need to maintain its focus on sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and climate resilience.
That is according to Raquel Moses, UNFCCC Global Ambassador of Small Island Developing States and CEO of the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator (CCSA), a partnership of 28 Caribbean governments and global companies working towards making the Caribbean a climate-smart zone.
Moses led a small but dedicated three-woman CCSA team to the climate talks in Dubai. There, the team participated and hosted events to secure financing for climate-resilient projects in the Caribbean, advocate for the Loss and Damage Fund, and present innovative, home-grown solutions to build resilience in the Caribbean.
“The first global stocktake synthesis report by the UNFCCC provides a roadmap for all parties to accelerate their climate action efforts to meet the 1.5-degree target, and the ‘Later is Too Late campaign,’ which we were proud to be a part of, created a strong push for the just phase-out of fossil fuels, the tripling of renewable energy, and the doubling of energy efficiency. While there is still much work to be done, we are especially hopeful given the leadership coming from the Caribbean, which continued to coalesce around one strong voice throughout the COP process,” Moses said.
The deals at COP28 have been tempered by the reality that what happens next will be more important than the pledges and text on paper.
“It is following through to understand how this manifests itself and what is the climate justice impact of a particular decision. When you hear things like climate finance being operationalized for particular things, looking at when the board is implemented on the Loss and Damage Fund, who is on that board and what kind of autonomy do they have? What kind of ability do they have to act with speed, for example? And that for me is a climate justice issue,” she said, noting that the Caribbean needs investment and it also needs heightened philanthropy to meet climate goals.
Among those goals is a long-term vision of creating a Climate Smart Zone in the Caribbean, one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable regions. Moses says the accelerator will build on projects that promote sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and resilience-building.
“We are excited about our climate-smart agriculture that was launched in August in Anguilla, Barbados, and the Cayman Islands and are looking to see that expand next year. We are always looking for donors that are willing to help us to fortify and secure our food. That is a huge part not just of our adaptation, but it can also be a source of our mitigation because the carbon dioxide that we spend on importing food is unnecessary. As the climate crisis exacerbates, it means that there is more uncertainty in our food production,” Moses said.
As it promotes climate-resilient solutions for the Caribbean, the Accelerator is investing heavily in innovation. It observed a milestone in Dubai when officials launched a Climate Smart Map, a platform with climate action data for 26 Caribbean countries. It is a major relief for a region beset with challenges in accessing current, reliable data for development.
“It demonstrates leadership in global transformation and showcases that we are capable of homegrown, cutting-edge solutions.This data-rich tool pinpoints the main areas of progress and needs across CCSA’s 28 coalition countries, enabling project curation and entrepreneurship. This will help project developers, philanthropists, and investors take a regional view of addressing our needs. To advocate for the Loss and Damage Fund, which has now been operationalized and is beginning to be seriously capitalized,” Moses said.
While the map addresses the dearth of data in the region, the accelerator will be working hard on two other major challenges: fit-for-purpose financing and project preparation funding.
“The Caribbean boasts remarkable projects and visionary initiatives—such as the D30 biofuel by the Carbon Neutral Initiative in Jamaica and the ambitious push for 100% renewable energy in countries like Aruba, Barbados, Dominica, and Grenada—but securing fit-for-purpose financing remains a persistent hurdle,” CCSA’s Director of Public Sector Projects Kiesha Farum told IPS ahead of the climate talks.
“Many projects also require funding for due diligence, assessments, and analysis to attract investor interest and to become ‘bankable.’ Actively pursuing financing is where we see grants, philanthropy, and concessional financing playing a major role. Bringing this type of financing to the region is of great focus, particularly during major events like COP and investor forums aimed at matching projects with potential investors,” she said.
Caribbean SIDS have rallied around calls by Barbados’s Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, for an overhaul of global climate financing. She has said that this shake-up, coined the Bridgetown Initiative, would be based on climate justice, ensuring that the greatest contributors to the climate crisis help countries like those in the Caribbean access finance to respond and build resilience to a crisis they did little to create.
The initiative also promotes innovative financing for climate-related projects. Those at the heart of the mission to build a climate-smart zone in the Caribbean know that conventional financing mechanisms are no longer sufficient to address present climate realities.
“Traditional financiers often seek long-term guarantees and short-term returns, which may not align with the nature and timelines of many climate resilience projects, such as those focused on nature conservation. On a national scale, solutions like debt-for-nature and debt-for-climate swaps, where a portion of government debt is cancelled in exchange for commitments to fund nature conservation projects, prove immensely beneficial,” the CCSA’s Finance Innovation Director, Cheryl Senhouse, told IPS.
‘A notable example is Belize, which completed the world’s largest debt refinancing through a debt-for-nature swap in 2021, directing USD 364 million for marine conservation. Similarly, Barbados executed a USD 150 million debt swap in 2022, generating USD 50 million for marine conservation. Given the significant contribution of the tourism sector to many Caribbean countries’ GDP, solutions like these have positive cascading effects.”
The CCSA officials say the road to COP29 started on December 13. It is a nod to the work ahead. For the Caribbean, it signals the need for greater solidarity and action on sustainable food systems, renewable energy projects, and innovative financing.
“We will continue to work ambitiously to expand on our climate smart map, secure fit-for-purpose financing for projects that will protect 30% of our land and ocean. We want to see the region reach 90% Renewable Energy for All by 2035 and usher in a new economy with at least 1.5% new green jobs,” said Moses.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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