Green tech fund launched to boost renewable infrastructure in the Caribbean
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Over a dozen Caribbean countries have teamed up with Virgin founder Richard Branson to launch a multi-million-dollar initiative designed to bring green tech to a region frequently blighted by hurricanes.
The Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator is a coalition designed to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”.
It aims to start the ball rolling on an $8bn investment plan that will bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to 3.2 million Caribbean households.
This would help Caribbean islands eliminate their costly dependency on fossil fuels so that they can meet close to 100 per cent of their energy needs from renewable sources.
“Just the fact that we’ve got ... pretty much every single Caribbean nation signed up, and a lot of agencies willing to work with them, gives a good chance of speeding the process forward,” Branson said in an interview with Reuters.
Branson has lived in the British Virgin Islands for more than a decade and weathered Hurricane Irma last year inside a cellar on Necker, his private island.
Hurricanes Maria and Irma left trails of destruction as they crashed through the Caribbean in September 2017, and many low-lying nations fear their infrastructure and economies will be devastated by more powerful storms and encroaching seas.
Scientists say that climate change can affect the paths of hurricanes, and increase their frequency and intensity.
At the launch event in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, Branson said the initiative – backed by more than $4m and serving 26 countries and territories – will give start-ups easier access to financing for large green projects.
Partners include the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), private firms, and countries including Grenada, Anguilla and Dominica.
Thursday’s announcement followed a December gathering in Paris where the IADB pledged $1bn in loans to help the region grow cleanly and curb damage from climate change.
The loans will help Caribbean islands switch from costly imported fuels to cheaper renewable energy, build coastal defences such as sea walls, and fund other initiatives to buffer communities against the effects of global warming.
The Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator will also act as a “facilitator” between those funds and public, as well as private sector recipients, a spokesman said.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the project would spark economic growth while combating climate change.
“The Caribbean can change the narrative of climate change from a narrative of disaster to a narrative of hope,” Holness said in a speech unveiling the accelerator to representatives from the region.