Saint Lucia’s experience with private sector climate adaptation
An insightful new study from the Climate Investment Funds shows what the island could do to accelerate progress.
Located at the edge of the north Atlantic hurricane belt, where storm systems gain strength from open warm water, the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia is highly vulnerable to climate change. On an island with a small surface area, and where its people and infrastructure tend to concentrate around the coast, every storm is a threat. A heavy reliance on tourism, agriculture and imported fuel and food add to Saint Lucia’s climate change concerns.
The island nation is confronting these development challenges head on. It has been a leader among Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in climate change policy making and planning. Its first National Climate Change Policy and Adaptation Plan was completed in 2003. A National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process was launched in 2018.
A crucial feature of Saint Lucia’s commendable efforts to pursue its climate change agenda has been its engagement with partners at every level. One important partnership is with the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)’ Caribbean Regional Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR); a funding program which puts climate resilience plans and public-private-sector innovations into action. Recognizing the private sector’s critical role in the national climate adaptation effort, the Private Sector Engagement Strategy, part of the country’s NAP, was launched in 2020. The strategy seeks to encourage private sector actors to help lead the national adaptation efforts to build the country’s long-term climate resilience.
The Saint Lucian private sector is represented by predominantly micro and small business and a handful of large firms – collectively responsible for a significant chunk of the livelihoods of the 184,000 strong population. While the government recognizes the critical role of these firms, it acknowledges that more work is needed to engage them in the adaptation process. It’s for this reason that the Government of Saint Lucia requested a CIF Evaluation and Learning (E&L) study to gain insights into their private firms’ efforts, and the impact of government initiatives aimed at encouraging firms to invest in climate adaptation.
The study drew lessons from stakeholder interviews, a survey of 23 large and 138 small firms, and two CIF-supported financing initiatives focused on strengthening private sector adaptation – the Climate Adaptation Financing Facility (CAFF) and the Sustainable Agribusiness for Laborie and Environs (SABLE)/SmartClime.
The private sector’s understanding of climate change risks and opportunities is limited. Although interviewees had high levels of climate change awareness, the understanding of its specific effects was limited. Few could identify an opportunity that climate change could create for their businesses.
There is considerable scope to expand adaptation measures for both small and large firms; only 48% of large firms and 20% of small firms had implemented at least one adaptation intervention.
More collaboration, knowledge-sharing and transparency is needed to identify and share successful private sector adaptation strategies (both within Saint Lucia and the wider region). Information and examples of successful climate investments by competitors can be motivating, suggesting a role for the government in facilitating knowledge sharing where gaps may exist.
Finance alone is not sufficient to encourage private sector investment in adaptation. An understanding of climate impacts, business cases and technical solutions are also necessary. A “roadmap” of four preconditions (see Figure), developed for this study, proposes government interventions that could help business owners:
- Understand climate change and the related risks (or opportunities) for their companies
- Become aware of successful climate adaptation strategies in similar businesses
- Become convinced of the business case for investing in adaptation
- Have access to resources (technical and financial) to design and implement adaptation projects.
The study acknowledged Saint Lucia’s leadership in establishing a policy framework for an ambitious climate adaptation agenda, and the government’s concerted efforts to involve private sector actors with planning activities.
Now, the most critical role for the private sector is not participating in policy making but undertaking interventions to ensure its own resilience; including pursuing business opportunities created by climate change.
The government’s priorities should shift towards the facilitation of private sector investments in climate adaptation and resilience solutions, while specifically defining what this facilitation looks like; what communications, research, technical and financial support are needed to empower Saint Lucia’s private firms to adapt.