The Caribbean now has its own Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development resourced by leading experts from The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and backed by high profile regional and international partner institutions—the likes of the United Nations Development Programme, Open Society Foundations and Barbados-born, Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation.
The new Institute was introduced during a virtual launch on Thursday, October 7. This first-of-its-kind for the Caribbean virtual hub consolidates The UWI’s research and teaching on climate change, disaster risk reduction, resilience and sustainable development. The UWI is uniquely positioned to lead this much-needed facility given its collective resources and expertise based on decades of research, validated by its current standing among the top 1.5% of all universities in the world, following recent rankings by the prestigious Times Higher Education ranking agency.
Increasing the scientific understanding of the changing climate and its impacts on communities and economies is at the core of the new Institute’s objectives. It will also execute projects that promote more resilient and sustainable development. Renowned scientist from The UWI St Augustine Campus, Professor John Agard, who currently co-chairs the independent group of scientists selected by the United Nations to prepare the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report, will serve as the Institute’s inaugural Executive Director.
Dr Stacy Richards-Kennedy, Pro Vice-Chancellor Global Affairs at The University of the West Indies contextualised the relevance and timing of the launch of the Institute, noting, “At a time when all eyes are on the preparations for COP 26 taking place in Glasgow next month, and the importance of multilateral cooperation, the launch of the Global Climate-Smart Institute is also a manifestation of our region’s collective response and of One UWI in action”.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University further emphasized the historic moment as the culmination of decades of forward facing scientific research, training and public advocacy by the region’s leading university. He said, “My colleagues at The University of the West Indies have been whistleblowers on the theme of climate change” and noted that he felt that their work had been largely marginalised over the years. “What we have seen in recent times, however, has been the recognition that The University of the West Indies has provided a pivotal role in shaping global opinion, and providing the evidentiary basis for climate change policy.” He added, “The University of the West Indies is proud to be able to demonstrate once again its continued relevance and commitment, and the establishment of this pioneering institution is merely an indication, and a symbol of the commitment of this university.”
Statements of support for the new Institute resonated from within the region and across the globe from prominent partners who have confidently committed funding and technical resources. The Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Chairman of CARICOM; Ms Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency; Dr Luis Felipe López-Calva, Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director of the United Nations Development Programme; Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations; Ms Justine Lucas, Executive Director of the Clara Lionel Foundation; Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales on behalf of the International Universities Climate Alliance all expressed their endorsements for the institute and enthusiasm to partner with The UWI.