Ambassador Theriot delivers keynote remarks at Atlantic Council Caribbean Initiative

Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Nicole Theriot
“Setting the PACC 2030 Agenda: Building Climate Resilient Caribbean Economies
Atlantic Council Caribbean Initiative
November 16, 2023

Good afternoon, everyone.

It’s a pleasure to be with you today. I want to thank the Atlantic Council for hosting this important exchange because the issue with which we’re confronted – the climate crisis and our actions through PACC 2030 – couldn’t be more timely.

I arrived in Georgetown just a month ago and am so excited to explore this beautiful country!  On one hand, I was so touched by the warmth and hospitality of the Guyanese people.  On the other, I was surprised by how bristling the heat has been each day. We’re experiencing record temperatures, and there’s no sign of cooling. But the heat isn’t our only nemesis.

Aside from their captivating beauty, one thing Caribbean countries have in common is their vulnerability to frequent and costly natural disasters.  Climate change is making countries such as Guyana disproportionately more vulnerable to climate risks as rising sea levels, warming temperatures, deforestation, and more frequent and stronger extreme weather events impact the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean, a single hurricane strike can be catastrophic. For instance, Hurricane Maria (2017) is estimated to have cost Dominica 225 percent of its GDP and Grenada 200 percent of its GDP.  Hurricane Dorian (2019) caused monumental damage and loss of life in The Bahamas.

As a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, I understand at a very personal level the disruptive and destructive impact of hurricanes and climate change.  We experienced this during and after Katrina.

Many Caribbean countries are highly dependent on fossil fuel imports to generate electricity. The region spends more than $7 billion annually on imported fossil fuels. That dependency makes the Caribbean highly vulnerable to external shocks like spikes in global crude oil prices or supply disruptions. Many of us experienced those disruptions to supply chains during the global health pandemic or following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Recognizing these facts, at the Summit of the Americas in June 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration launched the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis or PACC 2030. This initiative serves to catalyze U.S.-Caribbean cooperation to address the climate crisis and enhance the Caribbean’s energy security.  Many nations in the Caribbean have set bold and ambitious renewable energy targets. We, the United States, stand ready to provide technical assistance to help these countries achieve their goals.

In fact, since the beginning of the Biden Administration, the State Department increased climate resilience and clean energy funding in the Caribbean nearly threefold. Now, through PACC 2030, we continue to support our Caribbean neighbors to strengthen their energy security and enhance their adaptation and resilience to climate change events .

PACC 2030 activities and programs are taking place in four pillars:

  1. Improving Access to Development Financing;
  2. Facilitating Clean Energy Project Development and Investment;
  3. Food Security and Enhancing Local Capacity Building, and
  4. Deepening Collaboration with our Caribbean Partners

We want PACC 2030 to be a valuable forum to discuss an even broader range of topics — food security, energy security, and financial inclusion.  I am confident that bringing those topics under the PACC 2030 umbrella will complement our goals and make it easier to get results.

Through PACC 2030, we have launched several new programs to improve financing and engagement with the private sector.  This includes, for instance, the Caribbean Climate Investment Program (CCIP), for which USAID provided an initial $20 million investment.  USAID will provide financial, technical assistance, and business development services through CCIP to enterprises deploying technologies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate adaptation by mobilizing private finance and private sector-led actions.

In addition, Secretary Blinken announced a new $5.3 million USAID regional food security program, the Caribbean Agricultural Productivity Improvement Activity (CAPA). CAPA works to improve food production technology, promote sustainable farming practices, use climate smart practices, and promote market access for small farmers.

Through PACC 2030, we are combatting climate change both at the regional and bilateral level. I’m so honored to be in Guyana at this historic moment of its transformation, and to work with President Ali and the Vice President, who share the commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

In his visit to Guyana this summer, Secretary Blinken underscored the United States’ determination to support Guyana as it charts its course in developing its rich natural resources responsibly and with regard to climate change.

It’s commendable that President Ali and Vice President Jagdeo have envisioned and begun to implement a low carbon development strategy, which includes a focus on adapting to climate change and producing clean energy.

Guyana’s landmark sale of $750 million in carbon credits to the Hess Corporation is the evidence of this strategy in action.  This is a groundbreaking development in the preservation of forests and fighting climate change.

It is important that revenues from the oil and gas boom be used to make the investments needed to decarbonize industry and drive the energy transition.

But governments cannot fight the climate crisis and complete the transition to fully renewable energy on their own.   We need to use institutions like the OAS and IDB to strengthen the dialogue and partnerships between the public and private sectors.  The IDB has a special role to play in strengthening these connections through the Americas Business Dialogue, which channels private sector input into the Summit of the Americas and more broadly with the public sector, and by providing financing and technical assistance.

People often want to do the right thing, but when access to financing becomes an impediment, we need all the enabling mechanisms to pave the way to climate resilience.

Non-governmental initiatives, such as the PACC 2030 Summit that the Atlantic Council hosted last May and today’s forum, also play a crucial role in finding solutions to the very specific clean energy challenges Caribbean countries face.

This is why I really value this exchange and everyone’s participation and commitment to what I believe is the existential issue of our time. Thank you for inviting me here, and thank you for your dedication to combatting the climate crisis together. We may be from different parts of the region or the world, but we’re all inhabitants of one planet and thus all in this and stronger together!