Regional Push for Climate Resilient Infrastructure Takes Center Stage at CARIF 2023

A regional push for more climate resilient infrastructure took center stage at the 2023 Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF) as leaders in various industries presented a multi-sectoral view of the opportunities and need for investment in resilient and sustainable infrastructure throughout the region.

As climate change continues to top the list of concerns for the Caribbean, executives within regional finance, tourism, port, transport and agriculture industries shared in forward-thinking global trends and solutions that can better equip countries for further development against the increased risk and frequency of climate disasters.

Senior Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister in Barbados, the Hon. William Duguid said he would like to see the Caribbean develop to the point where hurricanes are ‘just events’ and not a disaster for infrastructure throughout the region.

“What we have to do is build for an expected rate of speed of wind as well as an expected volume of rainfall in a certain amount of time,” Duguid explained during the forum held at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami, Florida. “So, volume and time-related culverts, wells, roads, outfalls, to be able to recognize that we are at risk of getting sometimes one in a hundred-year climate events, every ten years. We have to understand that our previous infrastructure was built for a climate that no longer exists.”

He added, “So, we have to build our new infrastructure for the new climate; recognizing greater volumes in shorter times, higher levels of wind speeds at greater intensities and for longer periods. The engineering is possible. We were able to land a man on the moon. So, we know that we can engineer to these new climates. Once we start that and inculcate that into our standards then hurricanes will become events like a storm which will not cause the devastation that we’re seeing now.”

Renewal of port infrastructure, building and road resilience, financing, as well as more sustainable agricultural practices were among the main topics discussed during CARIF as the forum served as a marketplace for the regional industry leaders to pollinate ideas, originate projects and source financing.

CIBC First Caribbean Chief Commercial Officer Pim van der Burg said as countries within the Caribbean continue to face the effects of global warming, forums like CARIF provide a great ground to discuss the key topic of climate resilient infrastructure.

“It is a very important topic for all of our clients and so it is an important topic for us at CIBC FirstCaribbean as we are supporting them in achieving their financial goals,” he said.

“Action is required. There is no better day to start than now. CIBC has been sponsoring this forum for seven years now and people are starting to realize that this is topic of climate resilient infrastructure is really important to us, our clients and our communities. “

With mobilizing capital for food security also one of the topics of discussion, BRON Ltd. Founder CEO Carlos Palacious spoke of the changing world of agriculture and the need for the implementation of more sustainable farming tools throughout the Caribbean.

“Now, more so than ever, technology is the great equalizer for Small Island Developing States,” he said. “Technology now allows us to level the playing field for agriculture in a way we could not have before. Using technology and leveling AI, the things that used to restrict us, in terms of challenges are limited. But the challenges still come in energy security. So, the ability to create microgrids, and technology now open unprecedented opportunities to feed ourselves.”

He said the ability for the Caribbean to feed itself and keep the dollar within the region, the intentionality for leveraging technology within agriculture will open opportunities for all countries within the region.

The event was hosted by New Energy Events, whose CEO Matthew Perks said the aim is for meaningful outcomes to emerge from this year’s forum. “From increased flows of capital to resilient infrastructural projects in the region across multiple sectors, national development plans which transcend political terms, regional collaboration wherever it is possible, we want this conference to play a role in all of the above, whether big or small,” he said.

“Climate resilient infrastructure is the number one priority here. We’ve heard a lot of conversations about people planning projects which have a duration of 20-30 years and more than I’ve heard before I’ve heard people saying the world is changing very rapidly and the parameters of a project that works today will not work for that same project 15-20 years down the line. So, I’m hearing a very real grasp to projects that are resilient, that are flexible and adaptable to the change that’s happening right now.”

CIBC FirstCaribbean and KPMG served as the official sponsors of CARIF 2023.

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