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Rihanna calls for financial reform to help climate-struck communities. Here’s why she can talk
2023/06/27

Her foundation donated over €13 million to climate justice last year, and has long supported Caribbean communities after disasters.

Rihanna has joined a chorus of calls for global financial reform to help communities on the frontlines of climate change.

The Barbadian superstar tweeted US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and World Bank chief Ajay Banga yesterday, asking them to "make bold commitments to finance and debt reforms."

As her popular tweet pointed out, Robyn " Rihanna" Fenty has done plenty to address climate change herself through her Clara Lionel Foundation. 

For over a decade, it has funded climate resilience and  climate justice initiatives in the Caribbean and US.

"Will you join Mia Mottley [Barbados' Prime Minister] and step up for communities hit hardest by climate emergencies?" the national hero questioned the two finance leaders.

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Why is Rihanna calling for global financial reform?

Rihanna shared a link to 'action platform' organisation Global Citizen, which is campaigning for global financial reform to address the interlocking crises of climate change, hunger and inequality.

A letter from those concerned to world leaders and financial institutions has three key focus points:

Keeping promises. Wealthy countries had pledged to mobilise $100 billion (€92bn) in  climate finance every year by 2020. But they're still falling $16 billion (€15bn) short according to Global Citizen, which says that new funding must now be allocated. Freeing up funds. Campaigners are calling for "progressive and urgent reforms" to the international financial system including the World Bank, IMF and other multilateral development banks. They want to see new funds made available immediately to countries in need.

Making polluters pay. There is growing support for this principle as climate change intensifies around the world. Specifically, Global Citizen is demanding "a new global solidarity tax on the  biggest carbon emitters to fund climate support and other global public goods for those on the frontlines of the crisis."

Thanking Rihanna for her tweet, Mottley said that the Bridgetown Initiative - a  Barbados-led proposal to reform the world of development finance - is the "opportunity" that world leaders need to take.

Up for discussion at the  Paris finance summit this week, it aims to make the system fairer. For example, by stopping developing nations spiralling into debt when their borrowing is forced up by climate-fuelled disasters.

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What does Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation do?

The Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), which is named after the singer's grandparents, prioritises both climate  resilience and climate justice work.

Since 2012, it has donated millions in grants following devastating natural disasters - including after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017.

In 2019, the foundation launched its Climate Resilience Initiative (CRI), seeking to boost emergency preparedness. Later that year, CLF donated $1 million in grants in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, providing emergency food and medicine in the northern Bahamas.

Last year, Rihanna pledged $15 million (€13.2m) to the climate movement through her foundation.

The singer announced that the donation to 18 climate justice organisations would contribute to seven Caribbean nations and the US. These include the Climate Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Movement for Black Lives.

"Climate disasters, which are growing in frequency and intensity, do not impact all communities equally, with communities of colour and  island nations facing the brunt of climate change,'' said Rihanna.

The grants, made in partnership with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's StartSmall philanthropic initiative, are focused on groups with female, LGBT, and Black and Indigenous leaders because their communities are at the greatest risk.

"Funders must build partnerships with grassroots organisations, acknowledging their deep understanding of what is necessary to achieve climate justice in their own communities,'' Justine Lucas, CLF's executive director, said in a statement.

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