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  • Dec 12, 2016

CIF Talk: Small Islands, Big Ambitions

Rachel Allen 

I lead the $1.2 billion Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, a funding window of the $8.3 billion Climate Investment Funds - a climate finance trust fund housed at the World Bank. 

The PPCR assists national governments in integrating climate resilience into development planning. And we provide additional funding to put the plan into action and pilot innovative measures to pressing climate-related risks.

I’m from Jamaica, which is one of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a subject close to my home and my heart. 

SIDS are home to vibrant and distinct cultures, diversity and heritage.  In Jamaica, for example, we are very proud of our food, of our drink and of our most famous son the sprinter Usain Bolt!

Unfortunately we are in a race against time when it comes to climate change and as emissions increase – tick-tock, tick-tock - the clock ticks even faster.  SIDS account for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – BUT we are disproportionately affected by the impacts of extreme weather. 

And climate and weather-related events are affecting us more intensely than in the past.  They pose a significant threat to our social and economic progress. SIDS are home to vibrant and distinct cultures, diversity and heritage. 

I still vividly remember Hurricane Ivan tearing through Grenada, causing damage of more than US$900 million – that’s more than twice the country's GDP. The Solomon Islands in 2014 experienced flooding that cost 9% of GDP.  This year, in Haiti, Hurricane Matthew displaced people, destroyed homes and undid progress made after the 2010 earthquake. And In the last half century, natural disasters have affected more than nine million people in the Pacific Islands alone, and have claimed nearly 10,000 lives.  . 

SIDS are actually ‘Large Ocean States’ and some of them face existential threats.  As well as here-and-now dangers such as cyclones and hurricanes, SIDS are particularly vulnerable to:

  • The long-term impacts of things like rising sea levels
  • Ocean acidification
  • The already drastic bleaching of our coral reefs. 

Put simply, if they remain unchecked, certain SIDS could become uninhabitable.  Imagine that – no tropical beaches for your holidays.

But SIDS’ close relationships with the environment make us well placed to offer solutions. SIDS are hubs for innovation on resilience and sustainable development.  We can offer bold ideas and play a major role in delivering climate-smart solutions.

Our work on SIDS is something we’re particularly proud of at the PPCR.  We’re a large funder of SIDS – the second largest of all the adaptation funds, in fact. Our programs offer many interesting lessons on integrating adaptation and resilience into development planning. 

We are helping SIDS increase:

  • Their understanding of climate change and its impacts
  • Improve their capacity to adapt
  • And develop high priority investments on adaptation

Also, our regional programs in the Caribbean and the Pacific are being implemented to increase learning-by-doing.  We are sharing our lessons on how to integrate adaptation and resilience objectives into development planning. My own country of Jamaica –which I love, is particularly vulnerable because:

  • Four-fifths of our GDP is generated in coastal areas; and
  • That’s where over 60 percent of our 2.8 million population live.

So activities crucial to the country’s economy – including tourism, farming and fisheries – are at the mercy of extreme weather. That’s why we are funding a project to improve climate data and information management in Jamaica. The aim is to:

  • Make this more accurate, timely, wider in coverage and easier to access and use by coastal communities, particularly farmers and fishermen.
  • PPCR funding contributes to Early Warning Systems, improved equipment and observations – all of which lead to better forecasting. 

Combining finance for adaptation with strategic planning for development reduces risks.  So we are in the process of working with the government to introduce adaptation measures into new private sector housing development:

  • This project would also increase awareness of the practical and competitive advantages of building climate-resilient housing. 
  • This will help Jamaican communities and businesses not just survive but thrive.

SIDS are also well-represented in the CIF’s $780 million Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) with countries such as Maldives as well as Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.  SREP supports scaled-up deployment of renewable energy solutions to increase energy access and economic opportunities in these countries.

As we say in Jamaica – SIDS are small but “tallawah” (strong.)  While we are on the frontline of climate change’s impacts, we can also be innovation hubs for resilience, energy access and sustainable development. 

We may be small islands but we have big ambitions!