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Ahead of COP27, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, announced the Bridgetown Initiative, a political agenda for reform of the global financial architec ture and development finance in the context of three intersecting global crises (debt, climate, and inflation). The Bridgetown Initiative proposes the creation of new instruments and reform of existing institutions to finance climate resilience and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bridgetown will be considered in several global policy spaces, including the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, Paris (June 22-23), World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Marrakech (October 9-15), and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP28).
Bridgetown outlines broadscale proposals for systemic reform, with significant implications for both the climate and development landscapes. The initiative has opened space for debate about our global economic and financial governance in the context of the climate emergency—and an acknowledgement that major systemic changes are required for countries to escape their debt, development, and climate crises. In addition to framing these constraints in the context of systemic changes, the Bridgetown agenda sets the stakes much closer to where they need to be for climate and SDG action.
The specific mechanism of a disaster clause represents a success ful innovation on the part of Barbados and other Caribbean countries, building on the introduction of a “hurricane clause” by Grenada in 2015,6 and an outcome of its own skilful negotiation with the IMF. Bridgetown proposes that an automatic debt suspension in the case of an emergency be included in all lending going forward—but this needs to be applied to all debt, retroactively and across the board, in order to make a real difference.
Bridgetown questions only some of what needs to be challenged and uprooted about global debt regimes, IFIs, and the involvement of the private sector in “green transformation.”
Bridgetown’s conflation of development and climate risks undermining the requirement of climate finance to be “new and additional” to existing aid, and muddies the rationale for climate finance as rooted in the historical and ongoing obligations of industrialized countries. It risks over relying on private finance, and thus displacing the responsibility for global public goods onto the private sector (rather than on governments, for example via taxation). And perhaps most concerningly, Bridgetown operates completely outside the frameworks of multilateral agreements and structures such as the UNFCCC and the 2030 Agenda.