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Europe to help with climate change

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 2/29/2012, 6:11 p.m.

The European Union and the Caribbean trade bloc are collaborating to help Caribbean countries adapt and make mitigation efforts to minimize the effect of climate change by providing millions of dollars to a regional bank to lend out to borrowing states.

The aid money is coming through the European Investment Bank, which is making available $65 million in concession loans to trade bloc nations to help them better prepare for the effects of oncoming problems like sea level and global surface temperature increases on their economies.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), based in Barbados, will administer the money and lend at easy rates to up to 18 borrowing member states, the CDB said in an announcement this week. The money is to be used only "for dedicated climate change action."

The money, the umbrella lending institution said, will provide long-term, low-cost funding for public- and private-sector projects specifically designed to reduce carbon emissions or deal with the effects of predicted changes in the earth's climate. The European bank will also fund the work of climate change and adaptation experts supporting various projects across the region.

"Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most critical challenges currently facing the Caribbean and will require considerable resources to be dedicated to its resolution," CDB President Warren Smith said on Monday. For its part, the European bank said through its president, Werner Hoyer, that the money will "ensure that long-term funding can make a valuable contribution to projects across the region."

The groupings of mostly small island and low-lying mainland states like Guyana and Suriname have expressed fears about sea level increases and have urged developed nations to ensure that the global temperature is not increased beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which life would be unbearable in the region.

Neither bank gave details about the terms and conditions of borrowing, hinting only that the money will be loaned for development purposes. The banks said that renewable energy, sustainable transport and low-carbon innovation projects will be given priority.

Climate change issues are key for the region, particularly those relating to sea level increase and temperature rises. The region has watched as some Pacific islands have had to be abandoned and evacuated as water invaded their low-lying coastal communities. Most of the Caribbean's economic infrastructure, especially its tourist hotels, cruise ports and other key installations, are on the beach, so any rise in the water level could spell doom for many.

As for temperature increases, scientists have already observed the slow death of coral reefs in the region, which they blame on warmer than usual waters.