Caribbean seeks to become world’s first climate-smart zone

The World Bank says a ground-breaking partnership to support the Caribbean’s ambition to become the world’s first “climate-smart zone” was launched in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday.

The Washington, D.C.-based financial institution said Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, President of the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) Luis Alberto Moreno, Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Jorge Familiar announced the launch of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator.

Eight times Olympic Gold Medal Winner Usain Bolt was also 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.

“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,” the World Bank said.

“This climate-smart zone will not only protect the region but create jobs and a new economy in climate-smart infrastructure,” it added.

The World Bank said the Caribbean Accelerator has a vision that builds from the strategies of regional governments and agencies, including the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“Although it has only just launching, it has already started to lay the foundations for success with initial Caribbean Climate-Smart projects,” the World Bank said.

It said the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced that it will partner with the Accelerator to program and implement the additional US$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 US$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 facilities, the World Bank said.

The IDB also announced that it will provide US$3 million as start-up funds to the Accelerator “to help get this important initiative successfully up and running, with the first US$1.5 million available this year,” according to the World Bank.

In addition, the Government of Grenada announced the start of the implementation of a US$300 million project to create the world’s first “climate-smart city,” with initial support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help catalyze the project, the World Bank said.

It also said an anonymous entrepreneur is investing US$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 itself said it has made a three-year commitment of US$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).

The World Bank said 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.

“We are committed to a stronger, more resilient, and climate-smart Caribbean,” said Familiar at Thursday’s launch. “Working together, bringing in international partners and increasing private sector participation will be key to maximize financing for development and create opportunities for all.”

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, 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 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,” he said.

Sir Richard 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.”

Holness said being climate-smart means “putting the people of the Caribbean at the center of all we do – to protect them from the challenges of climate change.”

The Jamaica prime minister said 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,” he said.

“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 World Bank said Moreno 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.”

The coalition, which was first announced in Paris last December, has grown from 11 to 26 Caribbean countries, “with over 40 private sector partners to implement informative climate action across the Caribbean region,” the World Bank said.

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