Historic alliance to create climate resilience in 26 nations is launched in the Caribbean

On August 9, 2018 in Kingston, Jamaica, August 9, 2018 a ground-breaking partnership to support the Caribbean’s ambition to become the world’s first “climate-smart zone” was launched.

(L – R) Dr. Angus Friday, Advisor, Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, Luis Alfonso de Alba, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, Jorge Familiar Calderon, Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Christy Butcher, CEO & Founder, Writing Legends, Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, The Honourable Usain Bolt, 8 Time Olympic Gold Medallist, H.E. Didacus Jules, Director General, OECS, Dr. Neville Bissember, Adviser to the Secretary General, CARICOM, Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of Agriculture, Belize

The Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator is an entrepreneurial engine that catalyses and fast-tracks priority initiatives towards a “climate-smart” zone, delivering resilience, social development and broad-based economic growth for the Caribbean.

Over the next five years, it will do so by identifying and uniting commitments to building a more sustainable and resilient future for island nations through collaboration between national governments, regional and international institutions as well as public and private sector organisations. Twenty-six Caribbean government heads and some of the largest global companies, financial institutions, and foundations have joined the Accelerator since the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes.

The Accelerator has created an unprecedented coalition including 26 countries and over 40 private and public sector partners which will implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy in climate-smart infrastructure.

Featured as the first high-level commitment coming out of President Macron’s One Planet Summit, Prime Ministers Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica, Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Allen Chastanet of Saint Lucia and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson articulated a far-reaching vision for the world’s first climate-smart zone.

Speaking at the event, Sir Richard Branson said: “Our goal is ambitious and bold: we are creating the world’s first climate-smart zone. We have a vision of a Caribbean which is greener, stronger and more resilient than ever before – built on innovation, powered by clean, sustainable energy and accelerated by public and private investment.

The countries already signed up are: Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Barbados, Bahamas, Guyana, Suriname, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Panama, Haiti, Mexico, and Honduras.

A climate-smart zone is defined as having the aim of reducing climate vulnerability while building economic security for its citizens. A climate-smart zone is characterized by:

  1. Reduced vulnerability to a range of climate-related hazards and natural disaster risks through building resilient infrastructure;
  2. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and other pollutants;
  3. Healthy ecosystems on the sea to support the Blue Economy;
  4. Healthy ecosystems on land for food security;
  5. Enhanced energy security via promotion of energy efficiency, renewable energy and use of low carbon sources;
  6. Incorporation of one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals in all major projects sponsored by Governments.

The Caribbean Accelerator has a vision which builds from the strategies of regional governments and agencies, including CARICOM and OECS. Although it has only just launching, it has already started to lay the foundations for success with initial Caribbean Climate-Smart projects including:

  • IDB’s US$1 billion commitment to climate-smart investments: The Inter-American Development Bank announced that it will partner with the Accelerator to program and implement the additional $1 billion in funds that it pledged for climate smart-investments across the Caribbean region at the Paris One Planet summit. This additional funding will build on an existing portfolio of over $200 million to support innovative solutions focusing on low carbon emissions, sustainable infrastructure and energy efficiency projects in the wake of natural disasters, drawing from low-cost blended finance and contingent credit
  • The IDB also announced that they will provide $3 million as start-up funds to the Accelerator to help get this important initiative successfully up and running, with the first $1.5 million available this year.
  • Grenada Climate Smart City: The Government of Grenada announced the start of the implementation of a $300m project to create the world’s first “climate-smart city” with initial support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help catalyse the project.  It closely followed a recent GCF investment into Grenada for a $48.7 million climate-smart water project;
  • Ocean Resiliency: An anonymous entrepreneur is investing $2 million to support the Belize government’s ocean protection efforts, ocean advocacy across the Caribbean, and entrepreneurs deploying business solutions to benefit the ocean like Algas Organics, which is turning the sargassum nightmare into a business opportunity creating fertilizer to support a thriving agricultural sector in the Caribbean;
  • The World Bank Group: The World Bank announced a three-year commitment of $1 million annually in in-kind services for the Accelerator, and is supporting Caribbean countries with an almost US$2 billion portfolio focused on strengthening resilience and financial protection against disasters – including US$1 billion in concessional financing from the International Development Association (IDA);
  • Airbnb: In partnership with the Accelerator, Airbnb is helping to weave a community of hosts who are ready to respond and build a more resilient Caribbean. The company is doing this by allowing hosts to open their homes to disaster survivors and relief workers free of charge. Hosts waive their fees and Airbnb waives theirs. To date, over 11,000 people in need have been housed through the Open Homes program and it’s now expanded to the Caribbean.
  • Zero Mass Water, a member of Breakthrough Energy Coalition, are solving the drinking water problems for the pediatric wards of 2 major hospitals in Jamaica, through the installation of 20 of their Source Hydropanls, which will make clean, filtered drinking water out of air for the next fifteen years.
  • Accelerator Speed Award: Usain Bolt announced an annual climate-smart “Speed Award”. Identifying the best initiatives across countries, companies, communities and individuals. The first winners will be announced in June 2019.
  • Sean Paul a Grammy award winning Jamaican Musician, was announced as an official Ambassador of the Accelerator, with a focus on Oceans;
  • The TIDES Foundation announced a generous grant of $200,000 to the Accelerator.

Caribbean institutions and agencies – including governments, CARICOM and the OECS – have already started to use the Accelerator’s unique platform of public and private stakeholders to make a difference.

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness said: “Being climate-smart means putting the people of the Caribbean at the centre of all we do – to protect them from the challenges of climate change. The Caribbean Accelerator will also encourage job creation, social inclusion and economic growth. These benefits will only come when Governments, the international community and the private sector work together to overcome barriers and generate the investment that will benefit us all. That is why I am excited by the potential of the Accelerator to join the Caribbean with global partners who share our vision to see investment grow in the years ahead.

The coalition was first announced in Paris last December, and since then it has grown from 11 to 26 Caribbean countries, with over 40 private sector partners to implement informative climate action across the Caribbean region.

Forty other public and private sector organizations have joined the Accelerator’s wider coalition of partners. Some examples include: Bill Gates of Microsoft, Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Clinton Foundation, GSMA, Airbnb, The Nature Conservancy, Tesla, The Virgin Group, Willis Towers Watson, PwC, the Cadmus Group TIDES, Zero Mass Water, and the World Bank.

Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “We are committed to a stronger, more resilient, and climate-smart Caribbean. Working together, bringing in international partners and increasing private sector participation will be key to maximize financing for development and create opportunities for all.

The Caribbean Climate Smart Speed Award shines a spotlight on the people who are making a climate-smart zone a reality in the Caribbean. The purpose of the award is to celebrate examples of innovative, transformative work. Every year, the Accelerator will award the top countries, companies, and organizations that have made significant progress towards a climate smart zone in the Caribbean. One winner and two runners-up will be selected in each of the following categories:

  • Climate-Smart Country of the Year;
  • Climate-Smart Company / Entrepreneur of the Year;
  • Climate-Smart Community Leader of the Year – awarded to outstanding civil society organizations and educational institutions driving climate-smart development;
  • Climate Smart Adaptation– honoring the entity or individual with the top contribution
    based on working with mother nature;
  • The winners will be widely recognized across the Caribbean and globally, with each winner being awarded $50,000 to promote their climate-smart ideas; and
  • The winning country will host the Accelerator event the following year.

Luis Alberton Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank has played a key role in bringing together a multinational coalition of public and private partners to fast track public and private investments over the next five years.  He stated: “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 Climate Smart Coalition, in addition to offering new affordable financing, we will use the IDB’s extensive regional experience and presence on the ground to work closely with the people of the region to design their Caribbean of the future, today.

8 Times Olympic Gold Medal Winner Usain Bolt was in attendance to help fire the starting pistol for the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, which will be led by the Caribbean leaders to create the world’s first climate-smart zone.

All photo courtesy of Virgin Group.

See Caribbean Accelerator website.

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