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Urgent Action Needed to Safeguard Saint Lucia’s Biodiversity

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Wildlife conservationists consider it to be one of the most striking parrots of its kind. Saint Lucia’s best-known species, the endangered Amazon parrot, is recognised by its bright green plumage, purple forehead and dusty red-tipped feathers. But a major conservation organisation is warning that climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia’s healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, including the parrot.

Sean Southey chairs the Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

He told IPS that urgent action is needed to safeguard the eastern Caribbean island nation’s biodiversity, which is under constant threat.

“With climate change, countries like St. Lucia [experience] significant weather events. The increase in hurricanes, the increase in bad weather and mudslides – these are incredible consequences of climate change,” Southey said.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags,” Sean Southey, chair of the Commission on Education and Communication.

Though less than 616 square kilometres in area, St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else.

Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and St. Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened sake.

Also at risk are mangrove forests and low-lying freshwater wetlands, Southey said.

But he said it was not too late to take action, and he urged St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbours to take advantage of their small size.

“The smallness of islands allows for real society to get involved. What it means is helping people connect to the environment,” Southey said.

“It means that they need to know and feel and appreciate that their individual behaviours make a difference. Especially the biodiversity decisions [like] land use planning. If you are going to sell your family farm, do you sell for another commercial tourist resort, do you sell it to make a golf course or do you sell it to [produce] organic bananas? These are the type of individual decisions that people have to make that protect an island or hurt an island,” he said.

Southey added that thoughtful management of mangroves and effective management of shorelines, “can create natural mechanisms that allow you to cushion and protect society from the effects of climate change.”

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The island is home to more than 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The CEC chair said recent extreme weather events have forced people in the Caribbean to understand climate change more than inhabitants from other countries in the world do.

“If you’re over the age of 30 in the Caribbean, you’ve seen a change in weather patterns. It’s not a story that you hear on the news, it’s a reality that you feel during hurricane season every year. So I believe there is an understanding,” he said.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through many of St. Lucia’s neighbouring islands, including Barbuda.

The category five hurricane wreaked havoc on Barbuda’s world-famous frigate bird colony. Most of the 10,000-frigate bird population disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane that destroyed the mangroves in which they nest and breed.

While many countries in the Caribbean are working on building natural barriers and nature-based solutions in response to climate change, Southey still believes there needs to be a greater strengthening of that sense that people can actually do something to contribute.

Reducing plastic waste

In June 2016, Antigua took the lead in the Caribbean with a ban on the commercial use of plastic bags.

The island’s environment and health minister Molwyn Joseph said the decision was made in a bid to reduce the volume of plastic bags that end up in the watercourses and wetlands.

“We are giving our mangroves a fighting chance to be a source of healthy marine life, that can only benefit us as a people,” he said.

Antigua also became the first country within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the second within the Caribbean Community, to ratify the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Nagoya Protocol provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

On Jul. 3 this year, one of the Caribbean’s largest supermarket chains launched a campaign to discourage the use of single use plastic bags for bagging groceries at its checkout counters, while actively encouraging customers to shop with reusable bags as a more eco-friendly option.

Managing director of Massy Stores St. Lucia Martin Dorville said the company is focused on finding more permanent solutions to reducing plastic waste and its own demand for plastic bags.

He said the decision to encourage customers to use less plastic was bold, courageous and will help manage the adverse impacts of single use plastic on the environment.

“I am very thrilled that one of the number one supermarkets has decided to ban all plastic bags. It’s a small behaviour but it helps everyone realise that their individual actions make a difference,” Southey told IPS.

“As you drive across the landscape of St. Lucia, you see a landscape strewn with old plastic bags, so I was very appreciative of that. But what I really liked is that when I spent over USD100, they gave me a recyclable bag as a bonus to encourage me to use that as an individual so that my behaviour can make a difference,” he said.

He added that if school children could understand the importance of mangroves and complex eco-systems and the need to protect forests, wildlife and endangered birds “then I think we can make a huge difference.”

Credit: Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency

Geothermal Energy in Nevis

Mount Nevis sits at the centre of the volcanic island of Nevis, which has reserves of geothermal energy. Nevis is the smaller island of the pair, known as the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Mount Nevis sits at the centre of the volcanic island of Nevis, which has reserves of geothermal energy. Nevis is the smaller island of the pair, known as the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Legislators on the tiny volcanic island of Nevis in the northern region of the Lesser Antilles say they are on a path to going completely green and have now set a date when they will replace diesel-fired electrical generation with 100 per cent renewable energy.

The island, with a population of 12,000 currently imports 4.2 million gallons of diesel fuel annually, at a cost of 12 million dollars, a bill it hopes to cut down significantly. Nevis consumes a maximum of 10 mw of energy annually.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism of Nevis, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis Mark Brantley said geothermal energy is something that sets Nevis apart.

Mark Brantley - Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism of Nevis, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Mark Brantley – Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism of Nevis, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

“About 10 years ago we discovered that we have geothermal energy here. It has taken a while but we are not at a stage where all the exploration work has been done and we have been assured that geothermal goes live in December of 2017,” Brantley told IPS.

“What that means is that when that plant switches on in December of 2017, fully 100 per cent of Nevis’ electricity will be supplied by renewables. Nowhere else in the world can boast that and so it will make us the greenest place on planet earth. That’s the new tagline – the greenest place on planet earth.”

Nevis is the smaller island of the pair, known as the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is home to active hot springs and a large geothermal reservoir. Seven volcanic centres have been identified on Nevis and drilling at three sites has indicated that the geothermal reservoir is capable of producing up to 500 mw of constant base load power year round.

Brantley said the shift to geothermal could not have come at a better time.

“We’ve just come out of Paris with COP21; the world is talking about climate change and what we can do. I think it really gives Nevis another string to its bow in terms of things that we can talk about and exciting developments here that would drive traffic to the island as people come and would want to be a part of something that is so natural,” Brantley said.

“First of all, we’ll certainly go completely green. Our emissions, our carbon footprint is reduced to almost zero. Secondly, we have a situation where you have the cost savings are likely to be anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent.

Traditionally we pay anywhere from 40 to 45 US cents per kilowatt hour. Geothermal is being offered at about 17 or 18 cents per kilowatt hour. So just imagine, your operating costs are cut dramatically and how that can attract businesses. We are already having interest from people wanting to do electric scooters so just think Jetsons,” Brantley added.

Brantley referred to the 1960’s American animated sitcom ‘The Jetsons’ where the family resides in Orbit City. All homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson lives with his family in the Skypad Apartments: his wife Jane is a homemaker, their teenage daughter Judy attends Orbit High School, and their early-childhood son Elroy attends Little Dipper School. Housekeeping is seen to by a robot maid, Rosie, which handles chores not otherwise rendered trivial by the home’s numerous push-button Space Age-envisioned conveniences.

“The idea here, if you can imagine a place where visitors come, there are electric cars, electric scooters and everything because we have a cheap source of energy. Not only that, the experts are telling us that we have maybe somewhere north of 150 megawatts of available energy. Nevis only uses 10, so you have enough to export to St. Kitts because they are just two miles away,” Brantley said.

“In fact we’ve already done the interconnectivity studies; but also islands that are within that radius so Antigua is a possibility because they have no prospects for geothermal energy there.

“Anguilla has no prospects there but we also have neighbouring islands like St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius who have potential so Nevis can potentially, I think in a year become a net exporter of energy. And as a net exporter of energy we can change the whole economic paradigm in terms of what we rely on here so that we can wean ourselves even off tourism as a main stay and have energy and energy production instead. So I think there are some exciting times ahead for Nevis,” he added.

Dominica recently launched its own geothermal project with plans to construct a small power plant for domestic consumption and a bigger plant of up to 100 mw of electricity for export to the neighbouring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

A Geothermal Energy Bill is to go before the House of Assembly in the first quarter of this year. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the Geothermal Bill shows the commitment by his Government to pursue geothermal energy development.

“We’re hoping in the first quarter of this year to go to parliament to pass the legislation. It had to go through a rigourous review by our partners. That has been concluded. You know we had the challenge with the French consortium. We are engaging new partners but we’re also looking at the possibility of going with a small plant on our own. We’re engaging friendly governments, we’re engaging institutions,” he said.

“As you know we have an offer of a loan from the World Bank and that is still on the table. So the government now has to look at the financing options and decide which way it’s going to go with the geothermal plant. But we believe, notwithstanding the storm, it is important for us to pursue those renewable energy imperatives because based on advice, this would certainly be a major plus for the economy of Dominica.”

In August Tropical Storm Erika tore across Dominica, devastating villages, wrecking bridges and leaving a reconstruction bill worth half the country’s annual GDP.

About 10 inches of rain fell in a few hours, turning rivers on the mountainous island into torrents and hillsides into deadly mudslides. The capital Roseau was engulfed by water, and the island’s main airport was out of action for close to a month and will cost some 15 million dollars to repair. At least 31 people died in the storm.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

State Minister Commends CCIC for Support of Entrepreneurs

Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson (right) and Counsellor and Head, Development Cooperation, at the Canadian High Commission, Walter Bernyck (second left), with grant recipients and innovators (from left): Robert Wright, Shirley Lindo, Harlo Mayne and Dr. Kert Edward, at a cocktail reception to highlight the work of the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC), held at the Scientific Research Council (SRC), in St. Andrew, on September 16.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson (right) and Counsellor and Head, Development Cooperation, at the Canadian High Commission, Walter Bernyck (second left), with grant recipients and innovators (from left): Robert Wright, Shirley Lindo, Harlo Mayne and Dr. Kert Edward, at a cocktail reception to highlight the work of the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC), held at the Scientific Research Council (SRC), in St. Andrew, on September 16.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, has lauded the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) for its support of Caribbean entrepreneurs.

“This is a programme that encourages entrepreneurs to come up with solutions. You provide funding,  so that they can build a solution which won’t necessarily just solve a problem in Jamaica, or the Caribbean, but which can solve problems globally,” Mr. Robinson said.

The State Minister was speaking at a cocktail reception to highlight the work of the  CCIC, held at the Scientific Research Council (SRC), in St. Andrew, on September 16.

The CCIC is a joint project of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, World Bank and the SRC. It was designed to identify and support Caribbean entrepreneurs and new ventures that are developing locally appropriate solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Phase One of the project was highly successful, as 11 entrepreneurs were selected as proof of concept winners and awarded grants ranging from US$10,000 to US$50,000, totalling approximately US$425,000. The winners were from Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia and Belize.

The four Jamaican winners are Shirley Lindo, Castor Oil Briquettes; Dr. Kert Edward, Fibre Optic Solar Indoor Lighting; Robert Wright,  Pedro Banks Renewable Energy; and Harlo Mayne, for his H2-Flex Hydrogen Hybrid Project.

Meanwhile, the State Minister noted that one of the challenges facing entrepreneurs is the inability to access non-banking financing, such as venture funding.

“There are some developments that are taking place in a positive way in that regard. The Development Bank of Jamaica has an initiative on venture capital, and there are a couple of private angel investor groups that have been established, all of which are positive for the development of innovation and entrepreneurship,” Mr. Robinson said.

He pointed out that the innovations that are a part of the CCIC, fit right into the plans that the Government has in terms of building a sustainable energy policy.

For his part, Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Cliff Riley, said the CCIC is looking forward to moving on to Phase Two of the project.

“We are looking to see how we can drive entrepreneurship and create a spirit of innovation in Jamaica and in the Caribbean region,” Dr. Riley said.

Phase Two of the project will provide: proof of concept grant funding for new cohorts of entrepreneurs; training (including access to financing, market development and business incubation training); mentoring and networking opportunities; and specific business incubation services.

The project, which is housed at the SRC, caters to the Caribbean Community, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Credit: Jamaica Information Service
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