It is coming up to a year since hurricane Irma struck the twin island Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda with 185 mph winds, displacing the entire population of Barbuda. It is hurricane season again in the Caribbean, and as countries discuss ways to build resilience and protect themselves from the intensifying impact of climate change, the issue of finance is a hot topic.
The reality is that small and vulnerable states encounter well-documented challenges in accessing international climate finance. The most notable is the complex funding landscape, which has a number of actors and complex procedures.
International climate funds have also introduced innovative investment criteria and mechanisms for project approval, often with limited consideration for the capacity of small states to comply with such rules. As a result, while in theory funding is available, it practically remains inaccessible to small states.
This is the premise for establishing the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which assists these countries to meet the complex compliance procedures of international funds. The programme is currently helping a number of Commonwealth members, including Antigua and Barbuda, which is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as hurricanes, coastal erosion and droughts. The country is still dealing with the human and economic impacts of Irma. The focus now is on rebuilding and strengthening its resilience, so access to climate finance is critical.
In a number of ways, Antigua and Barbuda is actually leading the way in the mobilisation of international climate finance. In the past few years, while processes to ensure vulnerable countries have access to climate finance have evolved, it has adopted the necessary institutional structures and laws to obtain these funds.
Most notably in 2015, the Environmental Protection and Management Act was passed, which legislated the Sustainable Island Resource Framework (SIRF) Fund. The SIRF Fund is expected to become the primary channel to attract and manage domestic and international climate finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The country’s Department of Environment has spearheaded this effort. Since 2016, it has secured two readiness grants from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), paving the way to become the first national entity in the region to secure GCF accreditation.
It has also agreed a roadmap for engagement with the GCF that puts forward an ambitious project pipeline of over USD $245 million for funding. This includes a transportation project that will reduce emissions by improving vehicle emission standards and introducing incentives for mass transit vehicles to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Through the SIRF, the country is piloting a programme that will mobilise private sector finance and extend credit to high-risk, low-income households to strengthen the resilience of homes. This will be an important example of how to catalyse private sector funding in a small state constrained by the size of its domestic market.
The pace at which the country is adopting the necessary institutional arrangements to attract funding have been recognised by international funders and other countries in the region. Most notably the Department of Environment has secured a USD $20 million project to assist countries in the region - Dominica and Grenada - with climate finance readiness support. This partnership is enabled by the St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability, adopted by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in 2001. Grenada is also now developing its own financial mechanism for climate finance, building on Antigua and Barbuda’s experience with the SIRF.
Antigua and Barbuda is determined to build resilience to climate change and astutely recognises that climate finance has an important role to play. The effort is clearly country driven but international partners have a role to play. The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, building on its experience of technical assistance in the past year, is deepening its support and collaboration with the country.
The scope of our renewed cooperation is likely to impact several sectors of the economy but remains focused on mobilising climate finance. It will include specialised assistance in project development and refining the overall compliance of projects to the requirements of international climate funds.
Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts to mobilise international climate finance is domestically driven, this is an important factor in its success thus far.