Cook Islands get major boost in fight against climate change

GCF Readiness support to Cook Islands

  • Article type Story
  • Publication date 21 Dec 2021

How GCF helps Small Island Developing States to access cash to address critical capacity gaps

The Cook Islands are a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) in the South Pacific Ocean, with around 17,900 inhabitants spread across 15 islands. The country is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, tropical storms, cyclones, droughts, coastal erosion, flooding, rising temperatures, changing ocean currents, and abnormal weather patterns are all heavily impacting the islands. The country’s remoteness and economic challenges also limit its ability to adapt to climate change. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism accounted for around 80% of the country’s GDP, meaning the economic hit from the virus has been immense.  To make matters worse, intensive tropical cyclones and sea surges in recent years have damaged critical infrastructure. 

The sky-high cost of imports and high fuel prices have all exacerbated the country’s severe economic pressures.  But despite these pressures, the country recognised the need to sustain its fragile ecosystems by reducing the use of fossil fuels and pursuing economic development that is less harmful to the environment.

A series of tropical cyclones in 2005 that caused widespread damage to the national infrastructure compelled the government to focus on climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and improving the country’s ability to withstand future disasters. With support from The Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the country established its first Joint National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation in 2011 alongside a Disaster Emergency Trust Fund. 

In 2011 the country established the Climate Change Cook Islands Office (CCCI) having moved to coordinate climate change actions across government, but it soon became apparent that limited human and financial resources were limiting the country’s valiant efforts.


Readiness support to the Cook Islands

This is where GCF support helped the Cook Islands to take the next step in the country’s fight to protect its population.

In 2015, the country’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and the CCCI submitted a readiness support proposal to GCF, aimed at helping it to strengthen its national capacities. 

The Cook Islands became the first Small Island Developing State to receive funding from the Green Climate Fund Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme in the Pacific.  This support helped the country to strengthen its engagement with GCF, as well to address the areas which were holding back the country’s ability to access finance and meet its climate adaptation needs, including the accreditation of the country’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) as a national entity.

The Green Climate Fund’s Readiness and Preparatory Support Programme supports country-driven initiatives by developing countries to strengthen their institutional capacities, governance mechanisms, and planning and programming frameworks towards a transformational long-term climate action agenda.

For the Cook Islands, this support helped the country to develop national procedures for developing and aligning climate projects with national priorities, better preparing the country to access finance and implement transformative climate projects.

In February 2016, the Cook Islands became the first country in the Pacific to receive GCF readiness support. Since 2016, the Cook Islands has received three more readiness grants in 2017, 2018, and 2019, totalling USD 1.9 million.   This support has been accessed through the readiness support through national entities, ensuring the country’s ownership of how the support is used and developing institutional capacities on proposal design and submission.


The GCF readiness support to Cook Islands (as of 31 December 2020)

RPSP grants approved


USD approved


USD disbursed


RPSP grants approved
  • Readiness 1 (2016) - NDA strengthening
  • Readiness 2 (2017) - Support a second entity direct accreditation
  • Readiness 3 (2017) - NDA and DAE strengthening
  • Readiness 4 (2019) - Implementation of country programme


The first readiness proposal focused on NDA strengthening, to ensure that the NDA was well equipped to undertake its role. The second readiness support was focused on entity support to undertake a GAP assessment with the purpose to accredit a second direct access entity in the country.

The third readiness support strengthened the NDA and MFEM in developing strategic frameworks for engagement with GCF, including preparation of the Cook Islands country programme and progressing MFEM towards its accreditation as Direct Access Entity (DAE).  

The fourth readiness support focused on strengthening the implementation of the Cook Islands country programme through concept note development, capacity building for CCCI, MFEM and others, increasing the number of entities and the capacity building of the private sector in the country.

What may sound like bureaucratic measures with little real world, practical benefit misses the critical role this type of support provides.  In helping the Cook Islands and other states to develop their ability to prepare, develop and implement climate projects, these countries are better able to access funding to get them off the ground and save lives.


“The GCF readiness and preparatory support programme has allowed the Cook Islands to strengthen our institutional capacity and empower our people to prepare for climate change impacts and increase our countries resilience to those impacts.”

Mani Mate, Development Coordination Division, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management


The readiness work of the Cook Islands has been driven by a robust consensus building approach.  The Cook Islands chose a national delivery partner, MFEM, to strengthen national systems and the MFEM, in-turn, also used national human resources to achieve its accreditation and saw this as a necessary investment in building local capacity and capabilities.


Lessons learned

Through the access to GCF resources, the Cook Islands has enhanced its country’s ability to access climate finance.  Four key lessons identified in this process are:

  1. Clear and regular communications with GCF help countries to understand the requirements and process, the level of information and data required for review of the proposals, and the details of the accreditation process.
  2. In SIDS with small populations and closely-knit communities, it is important to keep local stakeholders informed about the work carried out with readiness support, to have a clear understanding and agreement.
  3. Learning from the experiences and lessons of other countries that have been successful in accessing readiness support pays off. The MFEM learned much from the Federated States of Micronesia in preparing for the accreditation process.
  4. Being an AE adds responsibilities to comply with and maintain the systems required for an AE. The NDA/AE can consider the accreditation process as an opportunity to build local capacity and resources and the readiness support is an instrument for doing so.


The Readiness Programme is designed to be a flexible tool to support developing countries. Based on the submission of high-quality proposals, the Readiness Programme can provide:

  • Up to USD 1 million per country per year for support related to institutional capacity building, coordination, policy and planning, and programming for investment. Of this overall amount, NDAs/FPs may request up to USD 300,000 per year in direct support to help establish or strengthen a NDA or focal point to deliver on the Fund's requirements. A maximum of USD 100,000 can be used for NDA-led stakeholder meetings.
  • Up to USD 3 million per country for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and/or other adaptation planning processes. This may include support for subnational adaptation plans and/or sectoral adaptation planning processes.
  • GCF can also provide capacity building for national or regional organisations (Direct Access Entities) seeking accreditation to the Fund once they are nominated by their local NDAs.


You can find more about GCF’s Readiness and Prepatory Support programme by visiting our website, including learning more about what support is available and how to apply.