By Elesha George
Thousands of public sector workers and residents are in line to become beneficiaries of a US$46.2 million grant from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which will help critical public service and community buildings improve resilience to, and recover from, extreme climate events like hurricanes.
What Sir Molwyn Joseph, Minister of Health and Environment, called a “historic event” was officially launched on Monday and will be implemented over the next six years (2022 – 2027).
Based in South Korea, the GCF falls under the United Nations’ framework and is the main climate funder to developing countries.
The Build Project will not only assist with construction of climate proof structures but will build capacity, ensure climate change adaptation is mainstreamed into the building sector and operationalise Antigua and Barbuda’s building code to address category five hurricanes. It will also improve early warning systems and strengthen climate information services.
“For many years, in all the climate summits, all the costs that have passed, the issue of loss and damage was never considered to be a legitimate issue in the global setting but the point is loss and damage is easily the most important thing to small island developing states,” the minister said.
“When you have a hurricane that devastates your infrastructure and you have a treasury that is already left without any flexibility, the question is where do you get back the money to build back your schools, your roads, your hospital and your infrastructure?”
Schools, police stations, the Defence Force, national archives, Barbuda Council Hall, departments within various ministries, the prison, community clinics and Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, EMS, as well as the High Court are among the buildings that will form part of the six-year project.
Ambassador Diann Black-Layne said the environment department in Antigua and Barbuda is the only one in the region that has been able to access this level of funding.
As part of the project about $100,000 will be allocated to hire apprentices from the Antigua State College each year.
Although the results of such a project can only be seen when an adverse climate event occurs, Black-Layne said “one by one we are going to make sure that our buildings are secure so we feel safe”.
“It’s one of those projects where the key performance indicator is not the most enticing,” she remarked.
Nonetheless, it is a big accomplishment that would not have been possible without passing environmental legislation in 2015 and unrelenting work from the Department of Environment and other facets of the public sector.
Sir Molwyn said work began in 2017 when a presentation was made to the Cabinet to raise money from the GCF.
In 2019, a team including the minister travelled to South Korea to meet the GCF’s CEO and made a case for climate support based on the experience in Barbuda from Hurricane Irma.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Environment will partner together to execute this project which includes counterpart financing by the Antigua and Barbuda government of US$13.5 million.
An implementation team will engage participants over the next two days to give more detailed information about the project’s scope and implementation.