Representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have presented a `debt for climate adaptation swaps’ proposal for Caribbean nations affected by hurricanes, during the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference, titled `Building a more Climate Resilient Community’
Representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have presented a `debt for climate adaptation swaps’ proposal for Caribbean nations affected by hurricanes, during the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference, titled `Building a more Climate Resilient Community’.
It aimed to raise international financial and technical support for the countries devastated during the recent hurricane season in September, 2017 and highlighted ways for vulnerable Caribbean Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) to become climate resilient nations.
Director of ECLAC’s Economic Development Division, Daniel Titelman, explained that the debt relief proposal is based on the establishment of a Caribbean Resilience Fund (CRF).
Under the proposed fund, states can finance investment in climate resilience, economic structural transformation and green growth in the region.
It aims to help Caribbean economies mitigate the consequences of climate change and adapt to them, at the same time as reducing the debt burden, increasing growth and working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030.
Director of the ECLAC’s Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean, Diane Quarless, described research undertaken in the Commission’s Damage and Loss Assessments (DALA) methodology in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Saint Maarten and the Turks and Caicos Islands that informed the proposal.
This DALA methodology collected data to form an accurate presentation of the degree of vulnerability to extreme climatic events in the subregion, assessing the challenges which climate change pose to various sectors such as agriculture, health, tourism and freshwater.
It provides a framework with data and parameters that are able to inform economic policy responses to the challenges posed by climate change in the short to medium term.
Most Caribbean countries are located in the hurricane belt and furthermore are prone to other hazards like earthquakes.
ECLAC found that the most vulnerable areas were already being impacted by climate, with an estimated 70% of the subregion’s beaches losing shoreline at a rate of between ¼ and 9 metres per year.
This is in a context where around 70% of Caribbean infrastructure and populations are situated on low-level coastal zones.
The total Caribbean debt burden reached US$52 billion in 2015, representing over 70% of the subregion’s GDP.
This debt accumulation is a result of increased spending to address the impact of extreme weather events and climate change-related difficulties, set within the subregion’s inherent structural vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
In addition, the upper middle and high income classification of most Caribbean countries mean they have limited access to concessional external finance and official development assistance.
GDP per capita criteria also fails to take into account threats from economic shocks and natural disasters such as hurricanes.
Quarless said: “ECLAC has been championing a debt for climate adaptation swap initiative; our contribution to addressing at once the crippling debt of the Caribbean economies and their need to generate the resources needed to finance resilience building measures.”