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.
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.
He said 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.