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More than $59 million for climate-resilient infrastructure

Friday 10 November 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Environment, National

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More than $59 million for climate-resilient infrastructure
GCF executive director Mafalda Duarte, second on left, with Pa Ariki, left, and other guests at a meet and greet with recipients of GCF’s readiness and preparatory support programme on Thursday. Photo: Joanne Holden/23110920

Plans to pump more than US$35 million (NZ$59.4m) into upgrading infrastructure within the Cook Islands community to help tackle climate change are in development.

The seven-year initiative would give households, businesses, non-government organisations, and community groups an avenue to apply for funding from the global Green Climate Fund (GCF), Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) development programme manager and GCF board member Tessa Vaetoru said.

But how to distribute the funds without “distorting the market” in favour of larger entities was still under discussion, Vaetoru said.

“We know what we want to do, but we’re still deciding how to make it fair,” she said.

“We want to make funding accessible for communities and businesses to upgrade their water tanks, windows, roofing – to adapt to climate change in the Cook Islands.”

The GCF was established in 2014 to finance projects focused on mitigating and adapting to climate change around the world. The Cook Islands became one of the fund’s earliest adopters in 2015.

The initiative, which had been in the pipeline since 2021, would be a collaboration between MFEM and the Bank of the Cook Islands (BCI).

Up to $16m of the $35.2m would be channelled through BCI over seven years, with a focus on individuals and businesses. The remaining balance would be managed by MFEM, and benefit community groups and non-government organisations.

While MFEM was GCF-accredited, BCI chief executive Jennifer Henry said the state-owned enterprise was working towards accreditation in order to take part in the initiative.

“We want to support community projects to have a wider impact in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua,” Henry said.

GCF executive director Mafalda Duarte – who is visiting the Cook Islands, connecting with recipients of GCF’s readiness and preparatory support programme at a meet and greet at Muri Beach Club Hotel on Thursday – said helping potential delivery partners get accredited was a top priority.

Henry said the accreditation process was nearing its final stage, after getting a kick-start in 2020 with funding from the GCF.

Through the accreditation process, the GCF determines whether an organisation has strong financial management and is equipped to oversee approved projects and programmes.