Vulnerable small island states and developing countries stand to gain access to billions of dollars of climate finance with the aid of a new Commonwealth initiative. The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, hosted by the Government of Mauritius, was officially opened today by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and Mauritius Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth at a signing ceremony in New York. It will help governments dealing with the ravaging effects of climate change to draw down funding from a global fund target of $100 billion a year by 2020. 

Secretary-General Scotland hailed the hub as a “practical step forward” towards delivering the Paris Agreement on climate change, which calls for the urgent release of funds. “Climate change is arguably the greatest challenge facing the world today. Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, extreme weather and loss of ecosystems look set to radically alter the planet and pose an existential threat to many countries,” she said.

“Donors are at last creating climate funds, but too often they are tied up in red tape and tremendously complicated to access, especially for small countries with limited capacity. In short, the money isn’t getting to those who need it nearly fast enough. This Commonwealth initiative will make the difference in unlocking much needed capital for adaption and mitigation, thanks to the generosity of Mauritius and other partners.”

Despite the target of $100 billion a year by 2020, only $726 million of available climate finance has to-date been received by the 31 small states of the Commonwealth - countries with populations of under two million who are among the most threatened by climate change - according to new analysis by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Prime Minister Jugnauth said: “As much as it is important to know that funds have been committed at the global level to tackle climate change, it is equally important for small island developing states, least developed countries and other states with limited capacities to know where the funds are located and how to access them.

"The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub has precisely been given that role. Indeed the hub’s main objective is to palliate the deficiency in information on climate finance and to assist particularly in the preparation of bankable projects,” he said.

Endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which is based in the capital of Mauritius, Port Louis, will place national climate finance advisers for two years at a time in recipient countries, who will help host ministries to identify and apply for funding streams. The innovative approach will build on-the-ground capacity to access multilateral funds such as the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and Climate Investment Funds, as well as private sector finance.

According to Makurita Baaro, Permanent Representative for Kiribati to the United Nations, a Pacific small island state with a population of 100,000, multilateral funds for climate change mitigation or adaption measures can be costly and cumbersome to access, meaning many small island states are put off by the “enormity of the task”.

“There are a lot of finance mechanisms which have sprouted up over the years but the issue is accessibility, particularly for small countries like ours with small administrations,” she said. “In a lot of cases, whether the submission is for a $100 million project or a $20,000 project, the paperwork is still the same, and that needs to change.”

The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub is supported with a $1 million grant (AUS) by the Australian government and a £1 million grant (GBP) from the Commonwealth Secretariat, plus in-kind support from the Government of Mauritius. In his speech, Prime Minister Jugnauth appealed to Commonwealth member countries and partner agencies to mobilise additional financial resources.

The first countries to formally request assistance from the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, Tonga, and Vanuatu. 

Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Pohamba Shifeta, said his country welcomed its establishment, saying: “Namibia is one of the biggest and driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, characterised by high climatic variability in the form of persistent droughts, unpredictable and variable rainfall patterns. These climatic changes will create considerable social and economic impacts, which climate finance for mitigation and adaption seeks to address.”

Jamaica’s Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation said it “looked forward” to receiving support through the hub. “The placement of a climate finance adviser in our Ministry is a priority and a critical step in building our capacity and supporting efforts to improve access and use of available climate finance,” the Ministry said in a statement.