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The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund on the Move

The excitement in the room was palatable. You know you have something special going when a volunteer group from a wide variety of backgrounds can eagerly sit through and enthusiastically discuss a near 100 slide PowerPoint presentation on ordinarily mundane topics such as requirements for governance, project cycle management, financial management and so on. Such was the agenda and mood as the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund Board met for just the second time following their formal installation and inaugural meeting on 17th July, 2017.  The Board has quickly become steeped in an exercise to develop the Trust Fund’s Operational Manual which would ensure it meets the highest global fiduciary standard.

The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund (VICCTF) is on a trailblazing path. From its inception it has had a unique and interesting story and is continuing to position itself to make a major mark on the climate finance landscape of the Caribbean. Established among a number of biodiversity, conservation or mixed portfolio Trust Funds in the region, the VICCF is set apart as being the first Trust Fund in the region established by statute, focused exclusively on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Another distinguishing feature of the Fund is that it is also being supported by a strong country institutional framework for climate change management and a comprehensive national climate change policy.

The concept of the VICCTF was born in late 2009 following the 15th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen. COP15 was a turning point in the life of the Convention and an “aha moment” for the British Virgin Islands (BVI). It was then that the BVI resolved to directly tackle the unique position it found itself in, as a Small Island Developing State (SID), but, at the same time as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. While facing the same urgent and severe impacts from climate change, due to its political status, the BVI is currently barred from accessing the major global sources of climate finance and other forms of assistance available under the UNFCCC and does not receive any sustainable climate financing directly from the UK.

Inspired by and closely working with and supported by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, the BVI worked to establish the legal framework to provide an independent, transparent and secure vehicle to raise, manage and administer blended funds to support actions to respond to climate change. The vision became a reality in 2015 when the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund Act was passed establishing the VICCTF. With a strong and highly engaged Board now installed, the Trust Fund is moving quickly to operationalization over the next couple years.

The Trust Fund will bring together climate finance from a number of sources, including already instituted local levies, bi-lateral support, private donations, support from foundations, market- based mechanisms and hopefully the Green Climate Fund. What started as a National Climate Fund has the potential to quickly evolve into a Fund supporting regional projects, perhaps focused particularly on channeling resources to other Overseas Territories facing the same plight, as it seeks to achieve Green Climate Fund accreditation as an International Accredited  Entity.

The VICCTF is certainly on the move and is “moving with a purpose” driven by the key role it must fulfill. Speaking to the importance of the Trust Fund in his remarks on installing the Board, Dr. Hon. Kedrick Pickering, Minister for Natural Resources and Labour said “There are milestones in the development of any country, and there are turning points that determine the destiny of a place under shifting circumstances. In a global era defined by climate change, the establishment of the Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund and now the installment of its first Board of Trustees is one such marker for the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands Climate Change Trust Fund will be the single most important vehicle to ensure a sustainable flow of financing from local and international sources to support climate change adaptation and mitigation.”

Credit: Dr. Ulric Trotz and Angela Burnett

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