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  • Leanna Kairua

Navigating Climate Resilience: Cook Islands Green Climate Fund (GCF)

Journey from pioneering access to sustained success

BCI with GCF Delegation, BCI is the most recent success story of the Cook Islands GCF Readiness Programme Journey, an example of leadership exhibited by a team of women from our local bank.

In a testament to commitment, innovation and resilience, the Cook Islands recently hosted the Green Climate Fund Executive Director Mafalda Duarte and delegation to a readiness success story event.

This gathering brought together key stakeholders who have steered our country's GCF journey from its inaugural readiness proposal to an impressive nine approved readiness and preparatory support programmes, celebrating milestones such as the accreditation of a national direct access entity and 2 Projects currently under the process for board approval.

The Evolution of a Readiness Pioneer

One must acknowledge its pioneering spirit to reflect on the Cook Islands GCF readiness journey. As the first Small Island Developing State and Pacific Island Country to access the GCF readiness programme a mere year after the GCF's establishment, The Cook Islands set the stage for what would become a remarkable story of climate leadership and perseverance. The nation has maintained its commitment and flourished alongside the GCF.

Accreditation Triumphs and Pipeline Projects

One of the event's highlights was the celebration of the successful accreditation of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) and the highly driven local women who led the accreditation, underscoring the Cook Islands' expertise and dedication in navigating the complex world of climate finance. What's more, another accreditation is currently in progress, led by a team of local women, indicating a sustained commitment to engaging with the GCF at the national level.

The excitement doesn’t stop there. With two projects in the pipeline line, the Cook Islands is poised to make substantial contributions to climate action and sustainable development. These projects are a testament to the country’s vision and determination to turn climate challenges into opportunities for positive change.

Capacity Building: A Pillar of Success.

The capacity-building investment through the GCF readiness programmes is central to the Cook Islands' success. These transformative initiatives have not only strengthened the Cook Islands Country's capacity and capabilities but also fostered the growth of human resources in both the private sectors, leading to an unprecedented era of climate action.

Over the years, GCF readiness programmes have catalyzed a series of remarkable achievements. The event brought forward a remarkable list of change-makers to share their stories.

Ana Tiraa | Programme Administrator - Former Director of Climate Change Cook Islands, Part of the Cook Islands 1st Readiness Programme, Former GCF FAO Coordinator, and IUCN Board member.

Ana emerged as a pioneering force in developing and implementing the Cook Islands Journey with the GCF and the country's first readiness proposal. Beginning her journey within the Climate Change Office, she swiftly transitioned to an international UN agency, contributing her expertise to global climate initiatives. While navigating the completed international landscape, Ms Tiraa faced multifaceted challenges. Undeterred, she brought back invaluable insights and experiences to compliment the work of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Readiness team. Her resilience in the face of international challenges speaks to her commitment to advancing the country's readiness for climate action.

Ms. Krystina Tatuava | Climate Change Advisor - Former MFEM GCF Lead, Part of the Cook Islands 1st Readiness Programme, Advisor to Alternate GCF Board Member.

Ms Krystina Tatuava stands out as a young woman whose journey through the Green Climate Funds Readiness Programme has been exceptional. She was involved in implementing and developing all nine successfully approved readiness proposals for the Cook Islands. Her prowess extends beyond the readiness programme, having played a pivotal role in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management's successful accreditation team under the leadership and guidance of Ms Lavinia Tama and Ms Elizabeth Wright-Koteka. Her versatility and deep understanding of the intricacies of the Green Climate Fund have also led her to become an advisor to a GCF alternate Board member.

H.E. Elizabeth Wright Koteka | Head of Infrastructure Cook Islands - Former Chief of Staff, Part of the Cook Islands 1st Readiness Programme, Country Programme Consultant, Lead Consultant for MFEM Accreditation, the former High Commissioner of the Cook Islands and now Head of the Ministry of Infrastructure.

In the tapestry of climate leadership, Ms Koteka paid homage to the transformative influence of two trailblazing women who spearheaded the Cook Islands GCF. Ms Ana Tiraa and Ms. Lavinia Tama. Drawing inspiration from their vision, Ms Koteka assumed a position as lead accreditation consultant. Ultimately, this led to the successful accreditation of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. Her leadership facilitated the successful accreditation and spurred comprehensive reforms within the Ministry. Beyond her immediate responsibilities, Ms Koteka immersed herself in understanding the intricate interplay of government agencies, international conventions and geopolitical dynamics, broadening her perspective on the global climate stage. This dedication eventually saw her rise to the esteemed position of High Commission to the Cook Islands.

Ms. Lavinia Tama | Senior Country Officer - Former Director of Development Coordination Division, part of the Cook Islands first Readiness programme, and now Head of the Cook Islands ADB office.

Ms Tama, a visionary leader and advocate for climate action, embarked on the pioneering journey that reshaped the Cook Islands approach to accessing the GCF. She began this transformative expedition during the COP negotiations, recognising the urgent need for climate finance in the Cook Islands. She, alongside Ms. Ana Tiraa, spearheaded the development of the Cook Islands ' ever-readiness proposal, a groundbreaking initiative to build the country's capacity to engage with the GCF effectively. Through her unwavering dedication and strategic leadership, Ms Tama cultivated a strong foundation for climate action in the Cook Islands. She inspired a new generation of leaders committed to achieving her vision, building the capacity of the Cook Islands and addressing the impacts of climate change.

Ms Tessa Vaetoru | Development Programme Manager - Former Development Programme Assistant, DAE Lead for GCF portfolio, President of the Cook Islands Business and Professional Women’s Association and GCF alternate Board member.

In the dynamic realm of climate finance, Ms Tessa Vaetoru's journey is a remarkable testament to the influence of mentorship and her tenacity. Starting in an assistant role, Ms Vaetoru was fortunate to be mentored by a cadre of phenomenal Vaine Toa, who encouraged her and exposed her to the intricate world of climate finance. Remarkably, before the age of 30, Ms Vaetoru swiftly rose through the ranks and assumed the managerial role, overseeing the Green Climate Funds portfolio on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, becoming an integral part of the climate finance negotiating team for the Cook Islands and also earning herself a coveted seat on the GCF Board. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of mentorship, determination and the ability of young leaders to navigate and excel in the complex landscape of global climate finance.

Ms Jennifer Henry | Chief Executive Officer - Former BCI Accreditation Associate, Former Lead Accreditation Consultant.

Ms Henry shared her remarkable journey, starting as an Associate with the Bank of the Cook Islands; she quickly distinguished herself with her acumen and dedication. Recognising the importance of climate finance, she swiftly moved and was promoted to Lead Accreditation Consultant for BCI, leveraging her expertise to position the Bank as a key player in sustainable development. Over the years, her commitment to climate action propelled her to the Bank of the Cook Islands CEO role.

She envisages the Bank of the Cook Islands as an accredited entity to the GCF, aiming to amplify its impacts on climate-related initiatives in the Cook Islands, particularly the Pa Enua. Ms Henry's ascent from an Associate to the Bank's helm reflects her achievements and the pivotal role that the GCF readiness programme has played in all of these women's journeys.

A shared vision for climate resilience

The event was more than a celebration; it reaffirmed the Cook Islands' commitment to climate resilience. By bringing together key stakeholders, the nation showcased its collaborative spirit between its public and private sectors, emphasing that success in climate action requires a united front.

Looking forward: A model for others to follow

As the Cook Islands continues its journey with the GCF, it stands as a model for other nations embarking on their climate journeys. The successes celebrated at the event serve as inspiration, illustrating what can be achieved through dedication, innovation and collaborative partnerships.

The Cook Islands Readiness success story event reflected not just past achievements but a bold statement about the nation's future trajectory. As we celebrate these milestones, we are reminded that the journey towards climate resilience is ongoing, and the Cook Islands is leading the way.


13 November 2023

Mani Mate

Acting Financial Secretary

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