The high-level Side Event on climate finance needs of developing countries, which took place during COP28 in Dubai, highlighted the progress made in implementing the Needs-Based Finance (NBF) project to facilitate access and mobilizing of climate finance for the needs and priorities of developing countries on a regional basis. 

Present at the panel were the Cook Islands, Grenada and the Republic of Tajikistan, all agreeing with the need to enhance climate finance and its access, especially for climate adaptation. 

Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, underlined that Pacific island countries are small micro-economies, “and when we talk about finance, one of the biggest financial challenges we have is investing in building resilience or developing capital or infrastructure. For small island economies, the cost of investing in infrastructure is disproportionately higher than that of even poorer countries with a larger economic size, so it is a challenge for countries like ours to find financing for resilience building on key infrastructure.” 

When you are classified as having a high-income status by OECD criteria, your ability to borrow money becomes more expensive… So, being classified as a high-income country will penalize you if you have a very small economy, and you will not be able to access financing at subsidized rates. Which brings us to climate finance: the access of our countries to funds like the Green Climate Fund is a truly extraordinary exercise in itself.” 

The Prime Minister of the Cooks Islands congratulated “in particular the Asian Development Bank, which recently announced a new financing initiative aimed in particular at small-economy countries like ours, for much more favorable lending terms and conditions, including loans up to 40 years with a 10-year grace period and a 1% interest rate. They are much more affordable terms and more convenient lending conditions.” “It is unreasonable,” Brown added, “to expect small island economies to borrow money to build resilience against climate impacts, to modify impacts that are not caused by small island states. The Pacific alone is responsible for 0.03% of total carbon emissions, so this is an impact that was not caused by us.” 

In the Pacific we have seen the impacts of extreme weather, but what we are also seeing is the impact of slow-onset effects of climate change… We do not have to do carbon reduction soon, we have to do it now.” It is a sentence pronounced in a normal tone, that of the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. But, in reality, it is a firm plea for urgency. “It is important to stop the melting of glaciers that is occurring in Central Asia, to contain the impact of damage occurring in oceanic countries. This is the message that I hope will resonate very strongly in this COP, and that 80% of carbon emissions must be reduced by G20 countries. This is where there will be the greatest impact; we must find solutions in the means to be able to deal with the attacks, keeping in mind that some of these countries have development needs, trying to lift the population out of poverty. Therefore – concluded Brown – it is necessary to focus on how to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and only through collaboration will we be able to achieve this goal”.

Kerryne James, Grenada‘s Minister for Climate Resilience, Environment and Renewable Energy spoke about how “we need a plan to initiate and manage international climate finance in order to maximize the impact of responses for us“. 

Grenada is an island in the Caribbean region which, like many others, will be most affected by the effects of climate change – underlines the young Grenadian politician – and we are among the many islands that have suffered the greatest damage due to natural disasters…” 

We saw it in 2004 with Hurricane Ivan. Loss and Damage in itself can relieve the difficult economic situation in countries such as Grenada and other small island developing countries. We expect to see an exacerbated intensity of hurricanes, storms and floods, and to fully realize, understand and internalize that we are already in a disaster.” James then presses on, stating how “we politicians and climate and environmental activists feel hopeless because, despite all the efforts, despite all these conversations and panels that we are having, we still cannot get enough access to funding for the climate, and when we do get access, the roads we have to traverse are so grueling that we are sometimes already set up for failure.” “So, understanding geographically where we are, understanding what currently exists in terms of the strategy or the mechanism for access to climate finance, the question – which the young Minister asks herself over and over – is: how can we collaborate at a global level, how can we bring together the resources we have to really have impact on what we need, and what could ensure survival in small island developing countries?” 

James says that governments in Grenada “have decided that renewable energy is the way to go,” but “we do not have large-size economies to attract investment, we do not have the technical capacity nor the human resources. Even if we had access to funding, who would carry out the projects?”. She then talks about an ongoing geothermal project that started in 2018 and will end in 2023, another example of building their own climate resilience. “But if you don’t have all the necessary resources, – she emphasizes – the time frame in which these projects can be completed expands enormously, and sometimes, as a policy maker, you tend to feel hopeless, as if you are fighting for a cause in which, even if you are not the one emitting in large percentages, you still try and try.” 

And finally James gets to the point, with the strength of a seasoned politician and the resolve of her age: “As we try to build our economy and make it strong enough, we still have to mitigate what other countries are doing to us. Renewable energy for us is one of the ways in which we can ensure our security, it is one of the ways in which we can transform small island developing countries; for some of us they are really important, up to 30-40% of our GDP.” The Minister also emphasizes that if she had the ability to “fix our energy systems and transform them into cost-effective energy supplies, then I believe this could simultaneously strengthen our security against supply and price shocks. We could contribute in our own way to globalization efforts and – she concludes – give ourselves the opportunity to build a sort of economic and systemic resilience that would allow us to adapt to expected climate impacts. We talk too much, at the end of COP28 we need action.” 

Bahodur Sheralizoda, Chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee of the Republic of Tajikistan illustrated how 98% of the country’s energy comes from hydroelectric power plants and, with the potential excess of the generated energy, exports clean energy to neighboring countries thanks to the ongoing projects such as the unified grid system of Central Asia.
The country has a high vulnerability to climate change, with low adaptive capacity, Sheralizoda illustrates: “We have among the lowest emissions globally, good indicators in terms of energy generation, but – he highlights – we are facing an increase of many climate-induced disasters, such as more frequent landslides, rising temperatures and a shift in precipitations, affecting about 70% of the population whose life depends on agriculture and also glaciers, which are very important and abundant resources in Tajikistan. And our economic loss from climate-induced diseases is estimated to be around 50% by 2030.” According to the Asian representative, “Tajikistan is proving to be very proactive in terms of respecting its commitments or presenting its national contribution, with ambitious mitigation and adaptation objectives. At least 10% of the country’s GDP will be needed to finance all identified conditional and unconditional measures.” Finally, he highlighted that the country “will use its resources for unconditional NDC mitigation actions, however the availability of domestic sources has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Article by Paolo della Ventura, Italian Climate Network Volunteer

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