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UPDATED: US$900 million available for climate change programmes

Published:Wednesday | April 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

New Commonwealth secretary general, Baroness Patricia Scotland, is on her way to Belize to explore how to further strengthen a climate change centre to assist Jamaica and other CARICOM member states.

Scotland told The Gleaner that she is keen to assist member states such as Jamaica that are vulnerable to climate change, to access US$900 million worth of aid and assistance which were available but not easily accessible.

"I am going to the Climate Change Centre in Belize," said Scotland, who left Jamaica yesterday after a visit to the island, the first since she assumed office three weeks ago on April 1.

"We are hoping to put in place a financial adviser. Most people can't draw down (from the facilities) because they don't understand the process," she added.

A Dominican by birth, Scotland was elected in November 2015 as Commonwealth secretary general of the 53-member Commonwealth nation states.

She disclosed that the plan was to create a climate change hub in the financial centre in Mauritius, to be represented in other members states.

"In that way, collectively, we will be able to provide the assistance that is needed to assist countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific," she said.

Added Scotland: "It is complex and difficult to make the applications to access assistance and so we are hoping to create a Climate Change Financial Centre."

This should come as good news for Jamaica which is, on the one hand, exposed to battering hurricanes, and unseasonable droughts on the other. Both situations have implications for food security.

Scotland is a veteran attorney in the United Kingdom, the first female to be accorded Queens Council in that country.

She has been focusing on the issue prior to her election, but indicated that she was jolted by last year's devastation of Dominica, by Tropical Storm Erica.

She described the first three weeks of her tenure as frenetic. "I was absolutely determined to hit the ground running after spending time talking to people."

According to Scotland, after disaster hit the island late last year, 90 per cent of Dominica's GDP was affected and there was half a billion dollars worth of damage.

"The Government of Dominica was challenged to rebuild Dominica after this terrible climatic incident, and we have pooled various people to see how that shape could take place," said Scotland.

She continued: "It is my huge pleasure as the last act as Dominica's disaster relief coordinator and my first act as secretary general of Commonwealth to be able to open the launch of that project that culminated into my first climate change summit.