ST JOHN’S, Antigua – St John’s and Rio de Janeiro have agreed on a deal that would see millions of dollars in debt being exchanged for action on climate change, Agriculture Minister Hilson Baptiste revealed yesterday.
The minister made the announcement while addressing participants of a climate change consultation organised by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
He said that Antigua & Barbuda was initially indebted to the South American country $36 million, which was later reduced to $22 million after negotiations by Finance Minister Harold Lovell last year.
Baptiste told the CARDI consultation that he was able to further reduce the debt to $18 million after talks in Rio in June with that country’s finance minister, Guido Mantega.
“We were introduced to a climate change organisation (The Nature Conservancy) and we are getting involved in a debt for climate adaptation swap,” Minister Baptiste said.
“We will get the climate change people to pay off the $18 million for us while we get vigorously involved in coastal zone management in Antigua & Barbuda.”
The debt for nature swap with the government of Brazil and The Nature Conservancy was first announced in a news release last week but no details were provided.
Baptiste said the deal was agreed to after Antigua & Barbuda made a proposal outlining the country’s commitment to climate change adaptation, an issue that he is personally concerned about.
He added that the constituency of St Mary’s South, which he represents, is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and stands to lose several feet of coastal land over a period of time.
Antigua & Barbuda has been preparing to benefit from this new method of debt restructuring being pushed by developed countries and the United Nations, which wants the developing world to implement measures that would lead to climate change mitigation.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)