The UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have launched a US$135 million (MVR 2.1 billion) assistance programme for 15 countries to combat climate change.

The aid programme, named the ‘Blue and Green Islands Integrated Programme,’ was launched during the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) currently taking place in Antigua and Barbuda. The programme will assists Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in three main areas; Economic Development, Food Production and Tourism.

The UNDP-managed programme is funded by GEF, a multilateral environmental fund which provides grants and blended finance for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mercury, sustainable forest management, food security, and sustainable cities in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The programme will provide assistance to 15 of the 39 SIDS. They are the Maldives, Belize, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cuba, Mauritius, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Timor Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.

The countries were selected on an expression of interest basis with funds awarded to the countries which submitted the top 15 proposals.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner told a joint press conference that SIDS countries are facing the greatest risks in global sea level rise, and the current changes in climate and the surrounding natural environment. Therefore, the countries desperately need innovative assistance to overcome these difficulties, he said.

“With the invaluable support the Global Environment Facility, the Blue and Green Islands Programme will serve scale up nature-based solutions in the food, tourism, and urban sectors that help shift key sectors from nature-negative to nature-positive — improving the daily lives of people in small islands and helping to revive the health of our natural world,” Steiner said.

Countries will be given the opportunity to implement projects in specific project areas with the opportunity for the fund to be used for more than one project.

According to GEF, the provisioning, and release, of funds can take 10-14 months, after which projects are to be completed within three years.