Pacific activists and civil society presented a historic new climate finance initiative to the community of Kioa Island in Fiji this week.
The Kato Pacific Community Climate Fund is a response to resounding cries from frontline communities that current climate finance is often inaccessible and insufficient.
Ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Fiji, Pacific civil society gathered on Kioa Island to formalise the Kato Fund, a development from the Kioa Climate Emergency Declaration launched at COP27 last year. As the climate crisis intensifies, Pacific island communities need resources to adapt and respond to impacts rapidly, often made difficult by cumbersome application processes, unrealistic technical requirements and lack of infrastructure.
Joseph Sikulu, 350.org Pacific Director and Kato Pacific Community Climate Fund Chair said: “Too many of our communities seem to be falling between the gaps when it comes to resources. We hear and we carry their frustrations. The Kato Pacific Community Climate Fund was created as a finance mechanism that is simple, clear and accessible to all. While global climate finance pledges are a victory for frontline communities, they mean nothing until they reach the people they are meant to serve.”
“As our Finance Ministers meet this week, our hope is that they mirror the discussions at grassroots level and work together to transform national and global finance mechanisms. Transforming our climate finance structures is a crucial step towards securing the resources our communities need to transition their energy systems, adapt to the changing climate and invest in the local solutions they deserve.”
A regional finance mechanism that simplifies these processes and removes barriers for vulnerable communities is timely and has the opportunity to address the intersecting climate and debt crises in the global south.
In Kioa, the Kato Fund established an interim secretariat composed of both civil society and community members, to ensure its operation is fully collaborative and centred in community-needs rather than prescriptive categories. With unique civil society access to philanthropic foundations, creative fundraising methods and technical capacity, Kato aims to fill the gaps of existing finance mechanisms.
Tuvalu Minister for Finance and Climate Change, Seve Paeniu said: “Pacific Island countries contribute the least to the cause of climate change, and yet we do only suffer the most damage in terms of the impact of climate change, but we have to consequently bear the heaviest price in terms of cost of adaptation and mitigation. This includes the cost of transitioning away from fossil fuel reliance to a low-carbon or green sustainable economy future. It is within this context that this Kato conference held on Kioa is very timely and fitting”
Frances Namoumou, Pacific Conference of Churches Programmes Manager said: “The last few days have been about weaving the different strands of our Kato together. We have come to an agreement in terms of crafting the Kato structure, identifying the principles and values that give it a purpose, scope of engagement and the various craftspeople who will continue the weaving and reweaving.
With baskets in abundance of the realities & resilience of Pacific communities, we now have a duty to carry and share these gifts of reciprocity, of stewardship and duty of care to the rest of the world.”
Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Coordinator for Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) says: “Pacific civil society is leading the way in developing and operationalising a funding modality that is context-appropriate and responsive to the needs of frontline communities. Kato is a response to the cries of our communities, who have long made it clear that the current climate financing mechanisms are largely inaccessible and inequitable. This is our collective attempt to stand in the gap often left by national, regional, and international instruments and an opportunity to centre our people and communities in our efforts to build a resilient and thriving Pacific region.”
Selita Pulini Tikoibua, Loss and Damage Youth Coalition Pacific Coordinator said: “Meeting in Kioa has been a great experience. We’ve been able to put together a finance mechanism that is by the community and for the community. In terms of Loss and Damage, Kato will really help facilitate the needs that communities have identified or have yet to identify, whether economic or non-economic loss and damage. This will be a barrier-less mechanism, accessible for grassroot communities.”
Sepesa Rasili, Fiji Council of Social Services said: “This is a multi-sectoral representation, and the beauty of that is that we are a mechanism that will address the gaps and will look at strengthening support at the community level. Kato is a mechanism that is by the people and for the people, addressing their needs in a shorter time frame and ensuring that their voices are heard.