Due to its susceptibility to climate change, the Caribbean Community has traditionally been a main supporter of climate-related initiatives. This was demonstrated early on through its strong support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty that was created in 1992.
In 1994, Barbados hosted the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. The resulting Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) focused on sustainable development through adaptation to climate change impacts. In response to the BPoA, Caribbean governments approached the Organization of American States (OAS) to request support for the development of regional projects aimed at building capacity to adapt to climate change. The OAS and CARICOM jointly organized a series of national and regional workshops to facilitate maximum stakeholder consultation on climate change issues.
The result was a proposal for the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC) project, which was submitted for funding to the Global Environment Facility (GEF). CPACC was approved and granted USD $5.6 million. Lasting from 1997 to 2001, CPACC was implemented by the World Bank, executed by the OAS, and overseen by a Project Advisory Committee chaired by CARICOM. Implementation was carried out by a Regional Project Implementation Unit based in Barbados.
The idea of a Climate Change Centre was conceived at the level of the Project Advisory Committee, when it was realized that a piecemeal project-by-project approach would not provide the same impact as a long-term strategic approach. This idea received the full support of Committee members, the World Bank, and CARICOM countries. The proposal to establish such as Centre was approved by CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development in January 2001. The Articles of Association were developed by the legal counsel for CARICOM, and were approved in September 2001. Also in September 2001, the CARICOM Secretariat invited member countries to submit proposals to host the Centre. Five submissions were received and two countries were short-listed – Barbados and Belize.
Belize received the final approval in 2002. At an intercessional meeting, which took place in Belize at the beginning of 2002, CARICOM Heads of Government approved the establishment of the Centre and signed a protocol to allow the Centre to function as a legal entity. The follow-up to the CPACC project, the Adapting to Climate Change in the Caribbean (ACCC) project, which lasted from 2001 to 2004, promoted the further evolution of the Centre by providing the resources to develop a comprehensive business plan and a strategy to ensure its financial sustainability.
In the beginning of 2004, the Centre became fully functional from its first home in the University of Belize in Belmopan. 2005, the Centre moved to its own space in the Lawrence Nicholas Building in Belmopan. The official opening of the Centre took place on August 2, 2005.