Sometimes, small isn’t necessarily beautiful.  A new policy paper by the International Monetary Fund highlights the big consequences small states can suffer from natural disasters. 

The paper shows that on average, the economic costs of natural disasters for small states can be more than four times that for larger countries. Small states can also suffer damage amounting to between 15 and 30% of GDP – these levels of devastation are almost never experienced by larger states. 

As the report explains: “Climate change is projected to affect small states disproportionately, partly by exacerbating natural disasters and partly through more gradual effects such as rising sea level. Small states will thus face much larger economic costs from climate change than larger peers. The impact on important economic sectors (agriculture, tourism, fishing) and pressures on ecosystems could exacerbate poverty and emigration.”

Climate change is projected to affect small states disproportionately
(Photo: Soufriere, St Lucia/Tim Welch)

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable.  That’s why the $1.2 billion Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, a funding window of the $8.3 billion Climate Investment Funds, is assisting national governments in integrating climate resilience into development planning and providing additional funding to put these plans into action and pilot innovative measures to tackle pressing climate-related risks.

The PPCR is helping SIDS increase their understanding of climate change and its impacts, improve their capacity to adapt and develop high priority investments on adaptation.

For example, in Jamaica, a $6.5 million project aims to improve climate data and information management. The ambition is to make this more accurate, timely, wider in coverage and easier to access and use by coastal communities, particularly farmers and fishermen. PPCR funding contributes to Early Warning Systems, improved equipment and observations – all of which lead to better forecasting.  The project will contribute to Jamaica’s effort to integrate climate change into decision-making processes and adapt to its effects.

Combining finance for adaptation with strategic planning for development reduces risks and PPCR’s Financing Water Adaptation in the New Urban Housing Sector project, with funding approved by the PPCR’s governing body, will aim to do just that.  By introducing adaptation measures into new private sector housing development and increasing awareness of the practical and competitive advantages of building climate-resilient housing, it will help Jamaican communities and businesses.

 Costs of natural disasters for small states can be more than four times that for larger countries (Photo: Climate Tracker)

In Samoa, 70 percent of the population lives within a kilometer of the coast. Approximately four-fifths of the country’s 400 km coastline is at risk from erosion, flooding or landslides. A PPCR grant of $14.6 million administered by the World Bank supports a program assisting 45,000 Samoans in coastal communities in adapting to climate change and variability; protects coastal infrastructure; and increases awareness about climate change impacts and adaptation activities among communities, civil society and government.

The project provides training and support in targeted communities to update and implement local coastal infrastructure plans, and for activities that increase the resilience of coastlines, near-shore areas and coral reefs. It offers community grants for village-level projects that target coastal resilience like planting activities, mangrove rehabilitation, improved water storage or the relocation of small infrastructure.

St Lucia is also under threat from climate change, as Farzana Yusuf-Leon of St Lucia’s Water Resource Management Agency explains: “The climate change impacts of increased incidences of floods, reduced availability of water – these are not simply expected impacts, they are actually current.  Because of the recognition that these impacts are devastating to Saint Lucia.  We recognized the need for improvements in our climate services and climate data.

“Through PPCR, a national geonode was established and developed and is currently being used.  It’s called SLING – St Lucia Integrated National Geonode.  It’s a web-based application – a repository of geospatial information. A number of agencies collect geospatial data but there’s very little collaboration.  SLING gathers all this data, keeps it in a central repository for easier accessibility so this information can now be used towards more informed planning and decision making.” 

And at the regional level, all programs in the Caribbean and the Pacific are increasing learning-by-doing and sharing the lessons with one another. 

By investing in SIDS’ resilience, the PPCR is helping these countries and others not just survive but thrive.