Government is seriously considering the introduction of a debt-for-nature swap financing initiative in its quest to better capitalize on the marine space and build the renewable energy industry, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey has revealed.
Humphrey was speaking Wednesday during an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) webinar on the topic Can the Blue Economy Spark Sustainable and Inclusive Recovery in the Caribbean?
He did not disclose details of the debt-for-nature swap but said discussions were “very advanced” and the hope was to create some $50 million (US$25 million) in financing for the blue and green economy.
He said: “Barbados is working on debt swap and we are having a serious conversation now about being able to use some of that debt.
“The way we finance the blue economy is going to be very important going forward. We have a lot of plans in all the various islands, but where we fall down is that we do not know how we are going to finance them. We now need to have innovative financial tools.”
He said the funds raised would allow Barbados to better “manage our green areas and we would be in a position to bolster about 30 per cent management of our marine areas in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone)”.
“We want to do the first in the Caribbean, a complete marine special plan for our EEZ. So there are big aspirations and I believe we can work together like we have done in the past,” he told IDB officials, while acknowledging that the island’s plans call for research, access to relevant information and having supportive partners.
The blue economy could be the next major contributor to the wider economy, Humphrey predicted.
But he has suggested some original plans will have to be changed for Barbados to achieve its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) or sustainable development goals under the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.
The minister said: “We have to be practical, and in our conversations with the IDB that has been the focus. We are working now in Barbados to develop a strategic roadmap.
“We have been working with the IDB to do so. I think in a post-COVID environment we may have to go back and tweak some of the things we have decided upon because we really have to be practical.”
Part of the island’s resilience plan is to become 100 per cent energy efficient, relying on renewable forms of energy or at least being carbon neutral.
Other strategies include a medium-term growth and development plan, a physical development plan, storm water management plan, a disaster resilience project through a roof-to-reefs initiative, as well as specific plans for ariculture and fisheries.
Humphrey said while a lot of effort had gone into areas of environmental management and related areas to achieve the intended NDCs initially set out, there were some areas that needed fine-tuning including those relating to the marine.
“There are some things now that we have to go and fine-tune like in the provisional set of NDCs we didn’t look at a focus on marine areas, but we now need to be able to do. So there are a number of things we are doing,” said Humphrey, who also hinted at possible energy generation from the ocean.
Pointing out that the Caribbean needed assistance in achieving its goals, Humphrey insisted that the relationship with developmental institutions must be based on “the realities of Caribbean countries”.
Representatives from the Bahamas and Jamaica also shared several initiatives they were carrying out, while agreeing that more action and funding were needed among countries to address issues relating to climate change.
Director of the Department of Sustainable Development at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Cletus Springer said he believed countries in that grouping were making progress.
But he suggested that they form a partnership with the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to move more aggressively to address the issue of “an absent and diversified knowledge-base on the blue economy, and the lack of a coordinated approach to inspire and support innovation in the blue economy”.
“What we would like to see is a CARICOM partnership conference on the blue economy with the participation of our heads of governments, the private sector, and the regional agencies,” said Springer. [email protected]