Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for 'absolute transformation' of global institutions like the World Bank

Paris (AFP) - Between brainstorming ways to fix the global financial system and appearing onstage at a Paris pop concert, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley stopped to record a message about the storm looming near her Caribbean nation.

“This is our new reality in a climate crisis world,” she told AFP in an interview in the snatched minutes between events linked to a summit hosted by France to rethink how the world funds international goals to end poverty and halt global warming.

News of the storm had made Mottley, who co-headlined the summit, agonise about whether to rush home, underscoring the challenges small island nations face.

In the end, she told fellow leaders at the opening of the meeting, she decided to stay to help push for action.

Mottley has played a key role in galvanising world leaders on reforms that had languished on the global to-do list for years, but she is keen underscore that this is an “inclusive process” involving a host of other countries, organisations and civil society.

“We only have this planet and unless you have a plan to live on Mars that I don’t know about then we need to work together to make it better,” she told AFP.

Mottley, who on Thursday called for “absolute transformation” of institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, sounded a note of caution about the level of political will.

“I think that there are problems in getting governments to overcome domestic politics and geopolitics,” she said.

But on Thursday evening, ahead of her appearance onstage at Global Citizen’s “Power Our Planet” concert featuring Billie Eilish, Mottley was celebrating a win.

“Today is a good day in that we have had almost everybody accept the validity of natural disaster clauses,” she told AFP, referring to one of the key items in the Barbados proposal for retooling the financial system.

Earlier, World Bank president Ajay Banga said the lender would introduce a “pause” mechanism on debt repayments for countries hit by a crisis so they can “focus on what matters” and “stop worrying about the bill that is going come”.

That is important for countries facing increasingly ferocious storms, floods and droughts that can wipe out chunks of an economy virtually overnight.

Speaking onstage with Banga, Mottley said Barbados had campaigned for years on this issue and praised him for agreeing to it just days into his new role.

“Your shoulders have to be broad for this moment,” she told him, after commending Emmanuel Macron’s climate leadership in the face of chants from the mainly young crowd against the French leader.

- Storms brewing -

The Paris summit comes amid growing recognition that curbing global warming at tolerable levels will require a massive increase in spending by poor and emerging economies on climate resilience and clean energy investment.

President of the World Bank Group Ajay Banga with Mottley during the Global Citizen concert in Paris

Other proposals from developing countries include how to turn “billions to trillions” for climate and development goals using multilateral development banks to help unlock private sector investments, as well as taxation on fossil fuel profits and financial transactions.

For many nations participating in the Paris talks, particularly those in the V20 group of more than 50 climate vulnerable countries, those ideas are based on painful experience.

Countries are being lashed by ever more expensive impacts, on top of a range of other challenges – from inflation to collapsing ecosystems.

Mottley said the storm threatening Barbados is likely to brush north of the country.

“But we still have to be careful,” she said, adding that storms used to hit from June to October or November, but now they can batter the country from May to December.

And she said “immediately after this one, there’s another one coming”.