September 30, 2023

Help’s on the way –Commonwealth to help Caribbean access Climate Change funds

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ScotlandBy Ravin Singh From Guyana Chronicle

SUPPORT will be offered to Commonwealth Caribbean countries by the 53-member Commonwealth of Nations to assist in the process of accessing United Nations’ (UN) available funds to counter climate change.This was articulated by Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle.

An England resident, Scotland was nominated by the Caribbean to serve as Commonwealth SG, given that it was the Caribbean’s turn to nominate a candidate for that position, based on the principle of rotation.

As the Baroness explained, Climate Change remains an important issue for the Commonwealth because it does not discriminate based on geographic space, and it poses an “existential threat” to our region. Efforts are being made at the level of the Commonwealth to create a climate change financial hub, where expertise that the region needs and those that the Commonwealth has will be in a common place.

“Our “spoke” here in the Caribbean will be in Belize, at the Belize Climate Change Centre which was created by CARICOM. So the Commonwealth is going to put a specialist advisor in that hub to try and help those Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean,” the Baroness committed.

She noted that if countries so desire, the Commonwealth would provide a financial climate change adviser to assist individual countries to feed into the “spoke”, to coordinate and help the region better articulate its needs, and to get access to the climate funds made available by the UN.


The UN has set aside US$900M to support adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF is a fund within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), founded as a mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

The SG described the system used to access the funds as “complex and difficult”; it has prevented countries in the Caribbean from drawing down any of that money.

Faced with this situation, she again committed to providing support for the region to access these funds to help with climate change.

“What we are trying to do in the Commonwealth is to create a mechanism to help and support our region technically, to get their hands on some of that money to help and adapt and change.”

She also expounded on the huge challenges that the region faces in the area of natural disasters, given that it is one of the most heavily indebted regions in the world. And most of that debt, she added, was incurred because of the climatic shocks from which the region has suffered for a number of years.

“There has been a cycle of the Caribbean restoring the damage cause by climate change; just about getting things back in order and then another issue happens,” she said, referring to Tropical Storm Erika which devastated Dominica last year.


The SG related that, just prior to the storm, Dominica was doing well by any one standard, having an increase of 4.1 per cent in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But when Erika hit, it almost wiped out Dominica’s GDP, as 90 per cent vanished.

“In a nano-second,” she said, “Dominica’s development was put back 20 years. All of the debts taken on to improve roads and other forms of infrastructure (were) washed away with it…. And still, having to recover; that is a challenge that our region has seen happen in many countries.”

With this being a reccurring feature in the region, the Baroness said, she has been talking to various Caribbean leaders, over the last 22 months, to understand what the Caribbean needs are for herself, so as to guard against this phenomenon.

And perhaps the most important questions at this time are: “How can the region manage its debt better?” and “Does the possibility of ‘debt swaps’ exist?” Debt swaps, she explained, is a term referring to the swapping of debts that the region has for climate change mitigation and adaptation practices.

With no one solution to solve these issues, she reaffirmed her commitment to providing support to the region via the Commonwealth in areas which include and expand beyond climate change.

IMAGE: Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland

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