Mon | Dec 9, 2019

IDB offers US$1b for Climate-Smart Accelerator projects

Published:Friday | August 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno (right) speaks with global business leader Sir Richard Branson at the 7th Annual Caribbean Governors Meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston in February. The IDB announced in Kingston on August 9, 2018 that it was backing Branson's climate-smart accelerator.
Usain Bolt has been named Speed Ambassador for the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator.
Zachary Harding has been named acting CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is planning to create the world's first climate-smart zone in the Caribbean and has secured the backing of the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB, for the initiative.

On Thursday, the entrepreneur pulled together a team of public- and private-sector partners to officially launch the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, an entrepreneurial initiative aimed at applying technology to solving climate-related challenges faced by the Caribbean's population of 44 million.

A wide coalition in support of the venture includes Microsoft and several Caribbean heads of government, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica who was the keynote speaker at the official launch in Kingston.

The accelerator is described by its founders as an entrepreneurial engine that catalyses priority initiatives towards a "climate-smart" zone, delivering resilience, social development and broad-based economic growth for the Caribbean.

Projects to be approved by the Accelerator are expected to address climate stressors which have been identified in the region as increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, increasing heavy rains and floods and/or the frequency of heavy storms, and changing rainfall patterns. Most countries across the region are expected to be severely impacted by drought and storms.

In literature on the initiative, the IDB says the Accelerator's main aim is to help transform the region's economy through fast-tracking sound public and private investment opportunities which support climate action and economic growth, through sustainable development.

PM Holness said at the event that countries in the region - including Jamaica, which was on track to achieving 30 per cent renewables as energy source - were adopting more climate-smart behaviour, but that much more could and should be done.

IBD President Luis Alberto Moreno said at the event, held at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, that the IDB was interested in scaling up the best projects to meet the region's needs.

The IDB will partner with governments and the private sector, with backing of US$1 billion for projects to be disbursed over five years. It will also provide US$3 million as start-up funds to the Accelerator, US$1.5 million of which was handed over on Thursday.

Senior international climate policy specialist with the World Bank, Angus Friday, told the Financial Gleaner that Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator will operate virtually utilising a network of selected partners across the Caribbean, with a coordinating head. That coordinating head is currently acting CEO Zachary Harding of Jamaica.

Friday pointed to a US$8-billion pipeline of projects brought forward by Caribbean governments and which he said were already approved for action. It's important, he added, to aggregate the projects in order to have the widest impact on the population of the region.

"We have primed the pump with a dew deals and transactions which we have been able to do, but we will be putting in place more formal structures," he said.

A board of governance is also to be put together for the Accelerator, as well as protocols for fund disbursement. And a full-time CEO will also be recruited, Friday added.

Projects already in the Accelerator's deal pipeline include the implementation of a US$300-million smart-city project in Grenada and a US$47. 7-million smart-water project.

Among the partnerships announced at the event was an offer from Airbnb, which will see hosts on its platform opening their homes to disaster survivors for free; a private company, Zero Mass Water, which generates water from air, will also be installing 20 of its units on the paediatric wards of two Jamaican hospitals; and Branson also brokered the donation by the Tides Foundation of a US$200,000 grant for the Accelerator's work.

The Accelerator also plans to present an annual 'Speed Award' to the best project in the region, which was announced by the accelerator's speed ambassador, Olympian Usain Bolt.