Climatic events should spur renewable energy efforts: CARICOM SG

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque on Monday said the recent climatic events that affected Haiti, The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic emphasized the need to intensify efforts to maximise the Region’s renewable energy potential.

Addressing the opening of the EU-Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference in Bridgetown, Barbados on 10 October 2016, the Secretary-General said the “erratic and prolonged intensity” of Tropical Storm and Hurricane Matthew, demonstrated the reality of climate change. It also highlighted the Region’s vulnerability to the social, economic and environmental consequences. The discussion on renewable energy was therefore important, he said, adding:
“Renewable energy is a critical component of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a key factor in the battle to limit global warming, one of the more harmful effects of climate change. Renewable energy also contributes to our climate adaptation efforts.”

With the involvement of the private sector representatives from Europe and the Caribbean in a Business Dialogue during the Conference, Secretary-General LaRocque said its success should pivot on solutions to resource the region’s renewable energy potential. In that regard, he noted the strengthening of the EU and the Caribbean partnership through a Joint Declaration on “reinforced cooperation in sustainable energy,” supported by the European Investment Bank.
Mr LaRocque noted that the challenges posed by “cheap oil” provided an opportunity for governments to “more aggressively pursue energy security.” Along with the development of a mix of renewable energy sources including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and marine, there was need for policies and strategies to further enhance a coordinated approach to addressing regional energy challenges, he added.

He said since 2002 CARICOM recognised this need and has adopted a Regional Energy Policy. It also approved the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) to guide, encourage and expedite the implementation of the policy.

The government of Germany has been particularly helpful in this approach that has provided CARICOM Member States with joint regional targets and a coherent strategy for transitioning to sustainable energy systems, he noted.
He said efforts to enhance institutional capacity to support CARICOM Member States in reaching regional targets have also been supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Sustainable Island Energy and Climate Initiative (SIDS DOCK) towards the establishment of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), in Barbados.

Technical and financial contributions, particularly from the Government of Austria and other key partners, have been forthcoming for this initiative which will, among other things, co-ordinate donor activities and act as the regional implementation hub for sustainable energy issues and activities in CARICOM, including project implementation, investment and business promotion.

Mr. LaRocque said the EU is providing 135 million Euros for the Caribbean Investment Facility which encourages private sector involvement in renewable energy projects. He added that said the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has been a key source of funds. A recent initiative is a partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United States Department of Energy and the CDB, through a Memorandum of Understanding that creates a framework for cooperation in the sector. Those partners are expected to work together to identify financing and investment opportunities for pilot and commercial scale projects.

On the other hand, he bemoaned the limited ability regional governments possess to mobilise domestic resources for sustainable energy investments. High debt, the classification of some Member States as middle income that denies them access to concessional development financing, “condemn many countries to a vicious cycle.”

“Global experience has shown that an availability of public capital is critical to the stimulation of private investments within the sustainable energy sector. We are of the view that global development assistance and climate financing systems should acknowledge and target the specificities and vulnerabilities of SIDS, given their limited domestic fiscal space.”

“The Green Climate Fund should provide reliable access to development financing and concessionary loans to support investments for climate adaptation and mitigation, including sustainable energy actions. Further, “Debt for Climate Swaps”, which focuses on clean energy investments, has the potential to be transformative and deserve consideration. Taken together, these actions have the potential to provide significant amounts of the public capital needed,” Secretary-General LaRocque said.

Caricom Today