Climate finance access a major challenge for Suriname

Suriname must prepare for the increase in floods, gusts of wind and extreme drought in the coming years. The country therefore needs financial resources to tackle these effects of climate change. The country can for example write to the Green Climate Fund or International Climate Fund, among other things. This fund was established by 194 countries that are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010 and makes resources available to the smaller countries to mitigate these effects. However, the fund has high requirements, making it an almost impossible task for the country to obtain.

“As a developing country, we qualify for the money, but the requirements and conditions for getting the money are so many and difficult to meet,” says Gina Griffith, legal advisor to the National Institute for Environment and Development in Suriname, NIMOS. For example, if Suriname wants to apply for money for climate adaptation, the country must be able to prove that the country is experiencing, for example, flooding and drought as a result of climate change.

“A country like Suriname that collects hardly any good data, where climate science is minimal, has a very difficult time proving that what they want the money for is the result of climate change. In addition, those project proposal forms are terribly complicated to fill out. We are a small country and don’t have many people, approximately 600,000. Of that group of people, we have a smaller group who are able to write these proposals, but they are busy with a hundred other things.”

Development of the adaptation fund

Since 1992, the responsibility of developed countries has been emphasized in supporting developing countries, particularly through financing climate projects. To achieve that goal, international climate finance translates into bilateral contributions between states or into financing from international funds. In 2001, a new, Adaptation Fund was set up to finance climate projects under the Kyoto Protocol to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable countries. However, in the absence of a new ambitious agreement, or in the lack of previous commitments being met to accelerate the fight against climate change, developed countries agreed to increase their contribution to financing climate projects in developing countries in 2009 during COP15 at Copenhagen. Then, a decision was made to create the Green Climate Fund under which developed countries committed to reaching USD 100 billion by 2020 in terms of international climate finance.

Unfortunately, at COP 27 it emerged that annual pledges for climate finance of USD 100 billion have not been fulfilled. In 2020, rich countries collectively provided $83.3 billion in climate finance to developing countries in support of climate challenges. As a result, they did not achieve the target of providing 100 billion dollars annually from 2020, as agreed during the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 (COP15). This became clear in the report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD. Low-income countries have long called for an increase in global warming adaptation resources and a better balance between global warming adaptation and mitigation resources.

“We are not getting the money that was promised,” says Griffith. “And the money is getting less due to developments in the world such as the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. The extent to which countries use these funds is minimal because of that money they give you have to meet such difficult conditions.”

Finance for loss and damage

On the final day of COP 27, countries agreed to also set up a fund for ‘loss and damage’, something that developing countries have been advocating for 30 years. According to Griffith, the whole process starts all over again.

“On the one hand, developing countries have ‘won’ by getting developed countries to agree to a loss and damage fund. But I don’t know how long it will take before it is completely finished, and one of the requirements will certainly be that you as a country will have to prove that the damage you have received is the result of climate change. And it is difficult for Suriname to do.”

Griffith cites that a good example is the case of the Afobakadam and the spouting of the extra water, in which parts of the interior with villages were flooded.

“Was that bad management? Is it climate change, or was that just extra rain. We don’t have the capacity to do the research so that we can conclude with more than 50% that the overfilling of the reservoir is a direct result of climate change. The same goes for flooding inland. Also, the flooding in the city centre. We are not in a position to do those investigations, we cannot do that as a country with a lack of capacity for people to do the research. That is the reality.”

Hire expertise

Does that mean that Suriname will not be able to submit projects for climate finance? According to Griffith, we need to make more efficient use of the opportunities we do have. Organizations working on climate change need to collaborate more. We also have to look at which funds we can already apply to.

“There are a number of international organizations that support Suriname such as the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program Suriname, UNDP. They all have environmental portfolios. We already need money to bring specialists to Suriname and to talk to people and collect ideas. These ideas then have to be written down, and a project proposal can be produced.”

If the project proposal is approved, there must also be capacity to carry out the project.

“We also need expertise for that. We can hire this expertise.”

Finally, Griffith indicates that as a country, we will think about where we want to go and make a plan for that.

“In Suriname we are still weak in working systematically. We know that climate change is changing weather patterns, and we need to plan accordingly. We also need to adapt our lifestyle to climate change. Another advice is to use part of the oil revenues to develop our country sustainably. Not only should we talk about the stability of the economy, but also how we can make our country sustainable in terms of climate change.”

In October last year, Minister Silvano Tjong-Ahin of Spatial Planning & Environment stated during the kick-off meeting of ‘climate finance for sustainable development in Suriname’ that the country is in a danger zone because among other things, the coast where the vast majority of the population lives is vulnerable to sea level rise .

That is why a lot of work is being done on the National Climate Agreement, NCA, which will serve as a roadmap to address climate change issues and to access different options of climate finance. At the end of February and beginning of March 2023, a high level meeting is planned where the government will present the National Climate Agreement, a roadmap for addressing climate change challenges and for accessing different climate finance options available to Suriname

This story was originally published by De Ware Tijd, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.

Kevin Headley
Kevin Headley (1983) is a Surinamese documentary maker, journalist, and writer. In 2009, he learned the basic skills of filmmaking at the Media Academy in the Netherlands. He also worked at the production house Multicultural Television Netherlands. Kevin has a number of productions to his name that have been screened in Suriname and abroad. Currently, Kevin focuses on producing articles, reports, and documentaries about the history, nature, and developments on climate change of Suriname.