Keynote Address by Dr. Filimon Manoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Virtual Workshop on Innovative Climate Financing Instruments: Supporting Post Covid-19 Pandemic Recovery in Asia-Pacific Small Island Developing States
Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Sanaka Samarasinha, United Nations Resident Coordinator,
Hamza Malik, UNESCAP Director for Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development,
Senior Officials and distinguished speakers,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Good afternoon and thank you very much for this opportunity to address you on behalf of Secretary General Puna who is unable to join us today.
As you know, climate change is the single greatest threat to our Blue Pacific home, as reaffirmed by our Leaders in 2019 when they issued the Kainaki Lua Declaration.
Indeed with the COVID-19 pandemic, our region is facing a three-pronged crisis: the health impact, the existential threat we face from climate change, and the consequent economic downturn.
Government efforts to address the recurring impacts of climate change and disasters have been worsened by the prolonged consequences of COVID-19. These challenges have placed significant stress on small administrations and resulted in increased debt for some of our Members.
Last year alone, the economic losses from climate-induced disasters in the Pacific were around 1 billion US dollars. Severe cyclones that wreaked havoc on our island homes in the past five years have caused economic damages ranging from 31 to 63 percent of GDP. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economic activity in Pacific Island Countries, resulting in an average GDP contraction of 4.5 percent in 2020.
No doubt the next few years will be very challenging for many of our Members as they endeavor to recover from the pandemic and respond to the heightening effects of climate change.
Therefore, access to climate finance is critical for our Members to support a green recovery pathway post COVID-19, and unlock a ‘triple dividend’ by: (i) reducing losses and damages from climate change; (ii) stimulating socio-economic recovery; and (iii) achieving resilient development outcomes.
Last year Forum Economic Ministers “urged relevant development partners, multilateral development banks and international institutions to provide the appropriate levels of support that focuses on grant financing arrangements, including direct budget support and other forms of innovative measures, including debt for climate swaps, to support the economic recovery of Pacific Island Countries”.
In a few weeks, the Forum Economic Ministers will again meet to consider progress on a number of issues, including the work of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce which would be shared under Session 3, and Leveraging Climate Finance Opportunities with a presentation from the Forum Secretariat under Session 1 of our program today. The discussions you have today are therefore crucial to informing the upcoming FEMM.
Although Pacific Island Countries have accessed international climate finance from global climate funds such as the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, Global Environment Facility and Climate Investment Fund, as well as bilateral sources; there are still many outstanding gaps and challenges.
Firstly, only 20 percent of global climate finance is programmed for adaptation. For those of us at the forefront of climate change, increased financing for adaptation and resilience solutions are needed now more than ever, for us to remain in our island homes.
That’s why the Pacific Resilience Facility is an important Pacific-owned, innovative, and forward-looking mechanism to build community resilience and adaptive capacity. We have launched the PRF Prospectus and now working with our Members and the Office of the UN Secretary General to convene a global pledging event in October. We call on the international community to join our Pacific’s call for support to the PRF.
Secondly, much of our Members’ focus in the past decade had been on a few vertical climate funds. The cumbersome processes of accessing multilateral climate funds have distracted countries from pursuing new innovative sources and approaches.
Further to this workshop, the Forum Secretariat is collaborating with UNESCAP to undertake a study on the ‘Feasibility of Debt-for-Climate Swap in the context of the Pacific’. Since February this year, the Forum Secretariat has also provided monthly policy briefs to our Members on innovative options such as Blue Bonds, Green Bonds, Anticipatory Finance, Carbon Emissions Levy, Debt-for-Nature Swaps and so forth.
Thirdly, Forum Economic Ministers have acknowledged the importance of balancing our region’s focus on ‘accessibility’ with the ‘effectiveness’ of climate finance. This work also recognises the importance of countries having direct access to climate finance. Through the Technical Working Group on Climate Finance and Public Financial Management, a regional National Implementing Entity Guideline for the GCF and an Issues Paper on the Effectiveness of Climate Finance in the Pacific are being developed.
Finally, none of the projects approved by global climate funds such as the GCF is dedicated to the private sector. Building the capacity of the private sector is critical to meaningfully engage with government and access climate funds. Through support from the EU PACRES Project, the Forum Secretariat has been working closely with partners to assist national chambers of commerce to integrate climate change into their business plans, supplement capacity and access GCF readiness grants.
In closing, let me remind us that for Pacific islanders climate change is not a debate, it’s a matter of survival and every day of inaction brings us one step closer to a perilous future which could see many of our homes disappear.
We know what can work in our unique context. We have local solutions, but we need the capital to deliver – disbursed in a timely manner in the form of grants and at scale.
The impacts of COVID-19 and the ongoing existential threats from climate change have demonstrated that we cannot and must not return to ‘business as usual’.
I encourage you to learn from the experts and the experiences of our friends in Asia, the Caribbean and Africa to support government policies that trigger innovative climate finance solutions and private sector investment. The Pacific Islands Forum, other CROP agencies and partners will continue to play our part in strengthening the resilience of our countries, our communities, and our peoples. But the reforms will require national leadership to achieve the anticipated outcomes of this workshop.
I thank you.