Caribbean Looks to France as Key Partner in Climate Financing

By the time leaders of the international community sit down in Paris to discuss climate change, at least two Caribbean leaders are hoping that France can demonstrate its commitment to assisting their adaptation efforts by re-joining the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

climate-change-and-agThe CDB is the premier regional financial institution, established in 1969. It contributes significantly to the harmonious economic growth and development of the Caribbean, promoting economic cooperation and integration among regional countries.

Of the 19 regional member countries that are allowed to borrow funds from the CDB and also have voting rights, 15 are members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

In addition, Canada, China, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom all enjoy voting rights but like Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, they are not entitled to borrow funds from the bank.

France was once a non-regional member, but withdrew its membership about a decade ago, supposedly because of domestic politics.

Now, two Caribbean prime ministers say with the region being among the countries worst affected by climate change and struggling to find the resources to fund adaptation and mitigation efforts, it is time for France to rejoin the CDB.

The lobby began on May 9th in Martinique when French President Francois Hollande visited the French overseas territory to chair a one-day Caribbean climate change summit ahead of the world climate change talks in Paris during November and December of this year.

During the plenary, St. Vincent and the Grenadines PM Dr. Ralph Gonsalves raised with Hollande the issue of France’s CDB membership.

Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Timothy Harris, who is chair of the CDB’s Board of Governors, the bank’s highest policy making body, told the two-day 45th meeting of the board, how Gonsalves raised the issue with his French counterpart.

Harris further said that building resilience to climate change and natural disasters remains among the issues that “need critical attention in the context of reshaping a credible agenda for Caribbean development.”

He told IPS afterwards it would be “a significant win-win for us all” if Hollande follows through on his commitment to rejoin the CDB.

“I think it will enhance France’s own involvement in the region but beyond the region as a major country interested in bringing justice to small island developing states, many of which are found in the Caribbean region,” he said.

When France left the financial institution it raised issues such as the reputation of the bank, because France had been an important member and also has good credit ratings.

An economist, Harris said the Paris talks will “only bear fruits for us if in fact it makes special provisions for the vulnerabilities of small island developing states.

“If a member of the G20 group such as France provide leadership in Europe and beyond, certainly it would be a good signal of that commitment for him to re-enter into the CDB as a member,” he said, noting that climate change will continue to be high on the agenda of the CDB during his chairmanship.

“It has already been identified by the president of the bank as one of the areas in which the bank wants to have a forward thrust.” he told IPS.

CDB president Dr. William Warren-Smith said that the Caribbean has already begun to experience “the damaging effects and associated economic losses of rising sea levels and an increase in the number of and severity of natural hazards”.

Smith, addressing the board of governors meeting, said that institutions from which climate financing can be accessed “understandably, have set the access bar extremely high”.

However, he stressed that the CDB has undergone reforms that will position the institution to gain wider access to climate resources.

“I am pleased to say that by the end of this year, we expect to be accredited to both the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund,” he said, adding that at a recent meeting of Caribbean foreign ministers in Berlin, he proposed the immediate establishment of a “Project Preparation Facility” for Caribbean countries.

“The government of France has been taking a lead in relation to this matter and Hollande has put his own personal prestige behind it and France has had a good history in this matter and has been playing a leading role in the European Union and also at the United Nations on this matter. So, I am very happy that they are engaged with us in the manner in which they are engaged,” he said.

He is also confident that France will rejoin the CDB.