Accelerating the Caribbean’s Climate Resilience

Racquel Moses was appointed in January as CEO of the Caribbean
Climate Smart Accelerator, an initiative backed by the World Bank
and Virgin’s Richard Branson to make the region resilient in the
face of climate change. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT-OF-SPAIN , Feb 26 2019 (IPS)

The Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator launched last year June
with the backing of Virgin’s Richard Branson has given itself
five years to help the region become climate resilient.

Its CEO Racquel Moses, who was appointed in January of this
year, told IPS the climate smart accelerator sees itself as an
enabler in paving the path towards climate resilience for the
region. “The horizon for the climate smart accelerator is just
five years. We are meant to be a catalyst to get things started.
Governments will have the ability to take things forward after
that,” she said.

Their primary agenda during that five-year period will be to
launch five major,“transformational” projects that will move
the region forward towards becoming a climate smart zone, she
said.

The idea for the accelerator was floated following the
devastating 2017 hurricane season which saw two Category Five
hurricanes that severely damaged a number of islands, including
Necker Island owned by Richard Branson, and left scores dead.

In the wake of that devastation, an interim team comprising
management of Branson’s charitable foundation, Virgin Unite, and
Inter-American Development Bank staff members got together and
hammered out the idea to make the Caribbean a climate smart zone,
said Neil Parsan, public sector lead for the climate smart
accelerator. They defined a climate smart Caribbean as one that
“modernises digital, physical and social infrastructure to
integrate essential activities that are climate adaptive,
mitigative and secure a low-carbon future for the region,” he
said.

Despite the Caribbean being responsible for less than five
percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, its growth in
emissions between 1990 and 2011 was three times the global average,
according to a 2017 USAID
report
. So 28 governments in Latin America and the Caribbean
have eagerly aligned themselves with the accelerator’s objective
of making the region a climate smart zone, as have major
institutions including the World Bank, the Organisation of
American States, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and
the Caribbean Community, Parsan said.

Moses said the accelerator was “working in tandem” with
regional governments to coordinate activities related to climate
change. “I have been surprised at how aggressively regional
governments have been working on the issue of climate change. We
are further along with some governments than with others,” she
said. But generally, “they have been quite excited to get
involved.”

The five transformational projects she is seeking to have
completed over the next five years would also be carried out with
governmental support, she said. To qualify as one of the five, a
project has to be low carbon, make use of renewable energy, have an
impact on a large number of people, be scalable across several
countries in the region, create climate-related jobs, and have the
potential to be exported outside of the region, she added.

Parsan said dozens of projects are currently under
consideration, but the challenge for the Accelerator’s team was
“being able to identify mature, bankable, investable, impactful
projects that align themselves to the strategic goals of the
accelerator.” Though most of the projects under consideration
meet some of the criteria, all do not meet every single
criterion.

Once the five major projects that the accelerator will be
working on are identified, the team will need to source funding to
help them get up and running. “We are actually working at putting
together teams that can address this funding,” Moses said. She
noted that Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley had expressed the
desire to see a regional climate investment fund created that would
bankroll climate change projects while giving investors a better
return on their investments than the current market rate.

The accelerator’s team had met with managers of global funds
“to find out legally how they work, and how to get multiple
funders, multiple countries, multiple companies working
together.” Though she declined to specify what types of projects
are currently under consideration, for reasons of confidentiality,
Moses said all projects identified must move the region forward to
achieving its climate smart goals, including having a low carbon
footprint.

At the same time, in the light of the region’s relatively
small contribution to GHG emissions, the accelerator is also hoping
to facilitate the region’s export of climate professionals whose
expertise would have been developed while working on
climate-related jobs in the Caribbean. Moses said the accelerator
also wants to help provide grants for smaller, climate-related
projects and will be announcing awards soon for some of these.

Momentum is continuing to build around the accelerator, Parsan
said. “There is definitely an uptick and daily I am taking calls.
A lot of interest comes from the Caribbean, which is great, a lot
of young entrepreneurs. We also have a lot of U.S. companies
expressing interest.” He said about 50 percent of the companies
reaching out to the Accelerator are outside of the Caribbean,
including some multinational companies. Among these Is AirBnB which
was mentioned in the announcement of the launch as providing free
housing to relief workers during natural disasters.

Energy companies also are reaching out to the accelerator.
“They say they are perceived as being part of the problem. They
ask, how can we be part of the solution?” Parsan said.

And though Moses does not believe being female helped her to get
the top job, the accelerator is also concerned about issues of
gender parity in the execution of its projects, she said.

Also on her wishlist as CEO of the accelerator is seeing the
Caribbean play its part in reducing carbon emissions by becoming
more energy efficient, and doing more to protect its marine
environment.

But mostly, “the thing that keeps me up at at night is
ensuring we are working fast enough…to make sure everything we do
benefits the region,” she told IPS.

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Accelerating the Caribbean’s Climate Resilience
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Accelerating the Caribbean’s Climate Resilience