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National Training Workshop on Climate Change Impacts Tools

PRESS RELEASE – Belmopan, Belize; November 24, 2017 – The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC/5Cs) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development and Immigration through the National Climate Change Office (NCCO) is hosting a national training on the Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) Portal and Climate Change Impacts Tools. This training workshop is being funded by the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) project. The training will be held over a period of 9 days; the first segment of the training is scheduled for the week of November 27th to December 1st, 2017, while the second segment will be held from January 15th to 18th, 2018 at the George Price Center, Belmopan City, Belize.

Participants of the National Training Workshop, Belize.

The Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model / Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (TSM/SMASH), the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO) and accompanying web portal and data sets are specific climate change impacts tools aimed at assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions along with policy formulation and implementation.

The tools are open source online resources to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Case studies focused on areas such as drought, agriculture, water resources, coastal zone structures, health (dengue fever), and urban development and flooding were also done to test these tools and information related to these case studies will be shared during the Training along with many other interactive sessions. The integration of the tools into national policy agendas across the region is being spearheaded through regional and country workshops, which are crucial to ensuring effective decision-making and improving climate knowledge and action.

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Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) Tools and Portal

Brief Description

  1.       A weather generator has been developed and tested on present day meteorological station observations in the region and found to produce reasonable simulations of both average and extreme weather properties. This tool provides the basis for weather generator based downscaling, required to generate locally relevant bias corrected weather scenarios for impact studies.
  2.      A new tropical storm model has been developed to provide spatial 15-minute scenarios of rainfall and wind speed over Caribbean islands under various scenarios of track, category, movement speed and historic notable storm. Managers may consider such scenarios as part of hazard management. Case study results suggest that hurricane speed, an under-reported metric, is actually of key importance, and that near-misses may be more hazardous than previously supposed.
  3.     The CARiDRO tool has been developed to assist the evaluation of meteorological and hydrological drought for the Caribbean and Central American regions, for both present day and future climate projections. This tool greatly simplifies standard but complex analyses and automatically generates a number of graphical outputs (e.g. time series plots and maps). This tool will support the agriculture and water resource sectors in their assessment and adaptation to drought hazard. A case study verified the CARiDRO tool identification of a region-wide historic drought, and found that future projections indicated increasing regional drought frequency.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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US$ 7.2 Million to Boost Climate Change Resilience

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz (standing, left) and General Manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner Jones (standing, right), observe as (from left) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; Managing Director, Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; General Manager, JN Small Business Loans, Gillian Hyde; and Programme Manager, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project at Jamaica House, in St. Andrew, on July 28. Under the initiative, US$7.2 million will be made available to micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism and agricultural sectors to finance climate-change adaptation initiatives islandwide.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz (standing, left) and General Manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner Jones (standing, right), observe as (from left) Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; Managing Director, Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; General Manager, JN Small Business Loans, Gillian Hyde; and Programme Manager, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project at Jamaica House, in St. Andrew, on July 28. Under the initiative, US$7.2 million will be made available to micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism and agricultural sectors to finance climate-change adaptation initiatives islandwide.

A total of US$7.2 million will be made available to micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism and agricultural sectors, to finance climate change adaptation initiatives islandwide.

The money, which will be in the form of loans and grants, is being provided under the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism Project, a component of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) in Jamaica.

The Project is a five-year initiative which aims to increase Jamaica’s resilience to climate change, through enhancing adaptive capacity across priority sectors.

This component of the PPCR is being implemented by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The initiative was formalised during a signing ceremony at Jamaica House in St. Andrew, on July 28.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell; Managing Director, Development Bank of Jamaica, Milverton Reynolds; General Manager, JN Small Business Loans, Gillian Hyde; and Programme Manager, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said the Government intends to increase its efforts to pursue long-term, transformative development and accelerate sustainable, climate-resilient economic growth.

“As a Government, we have pledged to protect the environment while creating jobs to drive the engine of economic growth, and we cannot allow climate change and other environmental impacts to impede us,” he said.

The Minister thanked all the partners involved in the initiative, noting that it represents an excellent opportunity to build on the work that has already begun in fostering sustainable development through partnership.

For her part, Ms. Hyde said the new loan facility will be open to qualified MSME beneficiaries who will be eligible for a loan amount between $200,000 and $5 million.

She pointed out that the loan will be available at a maximum interest rate of four per cent per annum.

For her part, Ms. Rangolan McFarlane said the money will be accessible to community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, other civil-society groups and selected public-sector agencies, for clearly defined high-priority activities.

She added that these should be related to building the resilience of the natural environment and contributing to livelihood protection and poverty reduction.

General Manager, Country Department, Caribbean Group, Inter-American Development Bank, Therese Turner Jones, said the initiative is another in a series of partnerships to assist in the development of the country.

“We are looking to see how this pilot is going to work, so we can think about replicating this elsewhere in the region,” she said, adding that the initiative is the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

The project involves a Climate Change Adaptation Line of Credit and a special Climate Change Adaptation Fund.

The Line of Credit will provide loan financing to help MSMEs in the tourism and agricultural sectors to adapt to the impacts of climate change.  The loans will be administered by the JN Small Business Loans Limited. The sum of US$2.5 million is being provided for this.

The Adaptation Fund will provide grants to adaptation and disaster risk reduction projects and finance the associated programme management costs.

Grants will be provided using the successful EFJ grant-making model. The EFJ will be the Fund Administrator for the US$4.7 million being provided.

Credit: Jamaica Information Service

Tackling climate change in the Caribbean

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Sanchez, Petite Martinique. Climate-Proofing the tiny island of Petite Martinique includes a sea revetment 140 metres long to protect critical coastal infrastructure from erosion. (Photo: TECLA  FONTENAD/IPS)

The world is still celebrating the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the main outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its ambitions are unprecedented: not only has the world committed to limit the increase of temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels,” it has also agreed to pursue efforts to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

This achievement should be celebrated, especially by Small Island Development States (SIDS), a 41-nation group—nearly half of them in the Caribbean—that has been advocating for increased ambition on climate change for nearly a quarter century.

SIDS are even more vulnerable to climate change impacts — and risk losing more. Global warming has very high associated damages and costs to families, communities and entire countries, including their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What does this mean for the Caribbean? Climate change is recognized as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities.

Moreover, scenarios based on moderate curbing of greenhouse gas emissions reveal that surface temperature would increase between 1.2 and 2.3 °C across the Caribbean in this century. In turn, rainfall is expected to decrease about 5 to 6 per cent. As a result, it will be the only insular region in the world to experience a decrease in water availability in the future.

The combined impact of higher temperatures and less water would likely result in longer dry periods and increased frequency of droughts, which threaten agriculture, livelihoods, sanitation and ecosystems.

Perhaps the most dangerous hazard is sea level rise. The sea level may rise up to 0.6 meters in the Caribbean by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This could actually flood low-lying areas, posing huge threats, particularly to the smallest islands, and impacting human settlements and infrastructure in coastal zones. It also poses serious threats to tourism, a crucial sector for Caribbean economies: up to 60 per cent of current resorts lie around the coast and these would be greatly damaged by sea level increase.

Sea level rise also risks saline water penetrating into freshwater aquifers, threatening crucial water resources for agriculture, tourism and human consumption, unless expensive treatments operations are put into place.

In light of these prospects, adapting to climate change becomes an urgent necessity for SIDS—including in the Caribbean. It is therefore not surprising that all Caribbean countries have submitted a section on adaptation within their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are the voluntary commitments that pave the way for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In their INDCs, Caribbean countries overwhelmingly highlight the conservation of water resources and the protection of coastal areas as their main worries. Most of them also consider adaptation initiatives in the economic and productive sectors, mainly agriculture, fisheries, tourism and forestry.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting Caribbean countries in their adaptation efforts for many years now, through environmental, energy-related and risk reduction projects, among others.

This week we launched a new partnership with the Government of Japan, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The initiative will be implemented in eight Caribbean countries: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.

It will set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies, helping put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change. It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

When considering adaptation measures to the different impacts of climate change there are multiple options. Some rely on infrastructure, such as dikes to control sea level rise, but this can be particularly expensive for SIDS, where the ratio of coastal area to land mass is very high.

In this context, ecosystem-based adaptation activities are much more cost-effective, and, in countries with diverse developmental priorities and where financial resources are limited, they become an attractive alternative. This means healthy, well-functioning ecosystems to boost natural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change, reducing people’s vulnerabilities as well.

UNDP, in partnership with national and local governments in the Caribbean, has been championing ecosystem-based adaptation and risk reduction with very rewarding results.

For example, the Government of Cuba partnered with UNDP, scientific institutes and forestry enterprises to restore mangrove forests along 84 km of the country’s southern shore to slow down saline intrusion from the sea level rise and reduce disaster risks, as the mangrove acts as a protective barrier against hurricanes.

In Grenada, in coordination with the Government and the German International Cooperation Agency, we supported the establishment of a Community Climate Change Adaptation Fund, a small grants mechanism, to provide opportunities to communities to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. We have engaged with local stakeholders to develop climate smart agricultural projects, and climate resilient fisheries, among other activities in the tourism and water resources sectors.

UNDP’s support is directed to balance social and economic development with environmental protection, directly benefitting communities. Our approach is necessarily aligned with the recently approved 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its associated Sustainable Development Goals, delivering on protecting ecosystems and natural resources, promoting food security and sanitation, while also helping reduce poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.

While there is significant potential for climate change adaptation in SIDS, it will require additional external resources, technologies and strengthening of local capacities. In UNDP we are ideally placed to continue working hand-in-hand with Caribbean countries as they implement their INDCs and find their own solutions to climate-change adaptation, while also sharing knowledge and experiences within the region and beyond.

 

Jessica Faieta is United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

 

Credit: Caribbean 360

IDB fund climate change adaptation programme in Tobago involving underwater sculptures

buccoco reef tobago

Buccoo Reef, Tobago

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has provided US$500,000 in grant financing to The Cropper Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago to implement a pilot programme utilizing underwater sculptures as a unique approach to climate change adaptation in the Buccoo Reef area.

Trinidadian artist Peter Minshall will create two Carnival-themed sculptures, part of a work known as Tobago Water Colours, in the area of Buccoo reef off Tobago, in one component of a programme on adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Buccoo Reef has been damaged by land-based nutrient run-off and years of excess visits from snorkelers and scuba divers.

The IDB-funded project is intended to provide an alternative destination for tourists that will also provide a new source of income for the tourism, cultural and creative industries of the area, while allowing Buccoo Reef to recover.

The programme will include a focus on marketing and financial sustainability for the new attraction. An additional component of the technical assistance grant will finance a study that will explore options to reduce anthropogenic pollution loading on the reef’s ecosystem.

“This may help turn the tide at Buccoo. Reflecting the colours of the reef and the movement of the sea, the installation will also be a celebration of our island and our annual Carnival, which is an ancient tradition,” Minshall said.

The IDB grant is being provided for an implementation period of 24 months and is expected to lead to a larger project entailing installation of the complete band of Carnival sculptures, following evaluation of the outcomes of the pilot programme.

The project is part of the Bank’s support for its borrowing member countries’ efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which will require innovative and creative financing and knowledge-based approaches.

Credit: Caribbean 360

US Embassy – Bridgetown installs largest wind turbine in Barbados

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PRESS RELEASE – The largest single wind turbine in Barbados has been installed at the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

The 20 kilowatt turbine, which is also the largest operating at any U.S. embassy in the world, underscores Embassy Bridgetown’s commitment to clean, renewable energy development throughout the region.

Since the 70-foot-high turbine was installed in Wildey, St. Michael, on December 16, it has produced approximately 63 kilowatt hours of energy daily. On an annual basis, it is expected to produce 56 megawatt hours. The turbine is built to withstand a Category 2 hurricane, and is designed to shut off and turn 90 degrees into the wind when wind speeds reach 59 mph. It is also incredibly quiet, producing only 50 decibels of sound even at its maximum speed of 100 rpm. Construction of the turbine took 72 days.

“Putting up this wind turbine has been an Embassy goal for several years and I’m delighted it has come to fruition,” said Larry Palmer, U.S. Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. “This shows we ‘walk the walk’ as well as we ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to being serious about mitigating climate change and promoting renewable energy.”

The new wind turbine is Embassy Bridgetown’s latest project to further its goals of mitigating the impact of climate change and promoting clean energy through adaptation initiatives and energy partnerships. Other recent projects include adding all-electric vehicles to the Embassy motor pool fleet and replacing chancery lighting with energy-efficient LED lighting.

“These green initiatives can make a real difference to our planet over time,” said Ambassador Palmer. “We intend to lead by example and encourage others to look at similar ways they can secure a cleaner energy future for us all.”

Credit: St. Lucia News Online

Climate Talks: What’s at Stake for the World’s Species

Infographic shows how even under 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, one in 20 species could go extinct, at great cost to economies, health and food.

The golden toad is one of two species that is already considered extinct due to climate change. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Editor’s Note: This infographic is part of the ICN “What’s at Stake” series highlighting the key impacts associated with climate change. See also What’s at Stake for the World’s Coasts.

Warming temperatures, rising seas, ocean acidification, changes to regional weather patterns—nearly every consequence of climate change threatens the world’s 8.7 million species in some way. About half of flora and fauna are already on the move in search of cooler climes. Even keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius—the target for international climate treaty talks—will force many species to the brink of extinction, threatening food supplies, human health, economies and communities. Here is a rundown of just how big an impact climate change could have on the natural world.

Click to enlarge infographic.

Credit: inside climate news

The Caribbean Needs a 1.5 C binding outcome at COP21

 

The Caribbean region is enduring the brunt of the ravaging effects of climate change. Sea level rise, frequent and intense natural hazards; extended dry seasons, loss of livelihood and the very disappearance of some of our islands are among the clear and present dangers that we face. The economic costs of climate change are beyond the capacity of these countries to bear without the provision of considerably more concessionary resources to address the impacts. This is why it is so important that our global partners support the call to limit warming to below 1.5C. This is achievable. This is urgent. Our very survival depends on it.

This video was produced by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The CDB is a regional financial institution which was established by an Agreement signed on October 18, 1969, in Kingston, Jamaica, and entered into force on January 26, 1970. The Bank came into existence for the purpose of contributing to the harmonious economic growth and development of the member countries in the Caribbean and promoting economic cooperation and integration among them, having special and urgent regard to the needs of the less developed members of the region.

Caribbean environmental experts explore climate change and public health responses

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

Flooding in Cuba *Photo credits: IPS News

The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Within recent times, the Region has experienced more frequent and severe storms and hurricanes, increases in mosquito-borne diseases, rises in sea level, prolonged periods of drought and salt water intrusion of coastal groundwater sources, which pose a significant threat to human health.

Recognizing the critical need to be more climate change resilient, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), UNEP-Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR-RCU), and the Government of Saint Lucia, will host a Conference to address issues related to climate change and health.

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CARPHA Executive Director Dr. James Hospedales said that because Climate Change threatens traditional public health infrastructure, the focus will be on environmental health services.

Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales explained that “climate change threatens traditional public health infrastructure. It will stress environmental health services, such as efforts to respond to severe weather events and disease outbreaks, provide assurance of drinking water safety, and implement vector control measures.

At the same time measures like alternative transport such as biking and walking and rapid mass transport can improve population health, mitigate climate change through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and reduce the import bill for oil.”  He added that the Conference “will bring together government representatives, and regional and international organizations to address issues of public health, environment and socio-economic well-being.”

The meeting, which will be held at the Golden Palm Conference Centre in Saint Lucia, runs from November 18 – 20 November, 2015, and will serve as a platform for information-sharing, and also as a “think tank” for developing innovative, Caribbean-specific solutions to our environmental health and sustainable development challenges.

Agenda items include discussions on preparations for Zika Virus and recent experiences with Chikungunya; food and water security; achievements of the Caribbean Cooperation for Health III; and a Caribbean Environmental Health Officers and Partners Planning Session.

Credit: St. Lucia News Online

Caribbean Water Ministers Will Address Water and Climate Issues to Help Shape the Development Agenda

In September, the United Nations will finalise a Post-2015 Development Agenda known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs follow and expand on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire at the end of the year and will be “the global community’s plan of action” for all dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) for the next fifteen (15) years.

On the heels of establishing this new universal Agenda; Caribbean Ministers with responsibility for water resources management from more than ten (10) countries, will meet on August 27th and 28th, 2015 at the InterContinental Hotel in Miami, Florida to discuss critical regional water and climate issues. Both water and climate change are reflected as priorities in the soon to be confirmed SDGs, with Goal 6 being: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” and Goal 13 being: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”

This Ministerial Meeting is the 11th Annual High Level Forum (HLF) which is being organised by the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) and the Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility – funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW) Project. The 11th HLF which takes place under the theme “Connecting Water to Climate, Economic Growth and Development within the Post-2015 Development Agenda” forms part of the CWWA’s 24th Annual Conference and Exhibition which is being held in partnership with the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

The 11th HLF takes place at an appropriate time to allow for discussion and collaboration on water and climate matters to help shape the sustainable development agenda of the region. This year’s Forum is forward-looking with a goal of producing concrete outcomes and harmonised recommendations to guide national and regional efforts in operationalising water, wastewater and climate goals and targets for sustainable development. Some outcomes of the Forum are likely to feed into the contribution to be made by Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December to play a pivotal part of global processes for advancing sustainable development.

According to Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General of Human and Social Development of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), who will be a keynote speaker at the 11th HLF “Climate change will continue to have serious implications for water resources in the region,” linking the two critical issues. He has also stated that partnership remains one of the means of implementation needed to achieve sustainable water development goals. In addition to CARICOM and the Caribbean Ministers with responsibility for water and their senior government officials, representatives from regional and international agencies such as the United Nations Environment Programme Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP), the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association Inc. (CAWASA), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Pan America Health Organisation (PAHO), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are expected to attend. Professor John Agard who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change, will moderate a Ministerial panel discussion at the Forum.

 Credit: WINN FM 98.9

Is the Caribbean a paradise for renewable energy?

The Caribbean nations have all the incentives and resources to convert to 100% renewable energy. But is it happening?

Beach in Barbados

With plentiful natural resources and expensive fossil fuels, Caribbean countries have a strong incentive to be at the forefront of renewable energy development. Photograph: David Noton Photography/Alamy

What motivated Derek to get into solar power? Was it a desire to be green or combat climate change? “Climate change? I don’t even know what that is,” he says. “I just didn’t want to depend on the power company.” Electricity is expensive in Barbados. Derek bought a solar kit including one panel for $100 (£64).

Derek is a mechanic by trade and is using his system to charge car batteries. He has found a way to integrate his solar system into his business. This is entrepreneurship in its truest sense. A viable business venture for Derek and a chance for wider environmental benefits for the country are the win-wins, but neither of these was the prime driver for Derek. He was essentially a tinkerer with an idea and wanted to try it out in the hope of paying less for power.

Derek's shop

Derek’s shop Photograph: David Ince

If Derek can make it to such a level of self-sufficiency starting from small beginnings, does this mean that individuals and businesses with greater means have gone even further? Well, more Dereks are gradually popping up throughout the Caribbean, but generally the answer is no.

The Caribbean appears to be the ideal location for renewable energy development. Petroleum resources are scarce and renewable resources such as solar, wind and geothermal are plentiful. Energy prices are high as there is no opportunity for economy of scale benefits that large land masses enjoy. Added to that, climate change impacts pose a major threat to the region’s small-island economies that are largely dependent on tourism and agriculture.

Despite this, most Caribbean nations still use imported diesel or oil to generate 90-100% of their energy. So what has been the barrier to using renewables? Many people have pointed to the cost factor. Small economies mean that in most cases countries have difficulty in financing renewable energy projects that require high upfront capital. Also, regulations have been slow in setting clear rules for grid interconnection. These factors have led some international investors and developers to be cautious about entering the Caribbean market.

We can learn from Derek’s example and build on local talent. Indigenous grassroots knowledge paired with the experience and access to capital of larger local and international companies would be a winning combination.

The advantage of building on local interest and indigenous talent can be seen in Jamaica. The late Raymond Wright was trained as a petroleum geologist and was head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) in the 1970s. His interest in wind energy was piqued while searching for areas with suitable geological characteristics for petroleum development. It soon became evident that Jamaica had a significant wind resource. Over time Wright shifted the focus of his energy development to renewables and PCJ took on a leading role in the establishment of the Wigton Wind Farm, which now generates about 0.1 % of Jamaica’s energy.

Jamaica is keen to build on Wright’s legacy. Expansion of the wind farm is under way and Jamaica plans to increase renewable energy use further, with a goal to reach 20% by 2030, as part of its Vision 2030 policy. There are plans for 20 MW of PV solar to be installed to compliment the wind farm. In addition, Jamaica is offering benefits for any company or individual selling electricity to the grid from a renewable source.

Back in Derek’s home island of Barbados, there is a story of another pioneer, the late Professor Oliver Headley. An organic chemist by training, he became a leading international voice for solar energy development. He got into developing renewable energy in the 1960s after a PhD student colleague challenged him to put the sun that was beating down on them daily to productive use. His pioneering efforts helped propel Barbados to a leader in solar water heater use in the western hemisphere.

There are three solar water heater companies in Barbados and more than half of households have heaters installed, which can be written off against income tax. This policy has been in place since 1974. The story goes that the then prime minister installed a solar water heater on his house and was so impressed with the results that he put the economic incentives in place.

Barbados is keen to expand the success of solar water heaters to solar photovoltaic with the introduction of the “renewable energy rider”. This allows people installing solar photovoltaics to sell their power back to the grid at 1.6 times the usual charge. As a result of this incentive, there are now more than 300 house-top PV systems in the island, and that is expanding. There is every possibility now that we will see more Dereks by 2020 and beyond, Barbados has set itself an ambitious goal of 29% of energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2029.

Wind farm in Curacao

Wind farm in Curacao Photograph: David Ince

A few other Caribbean countries have seen success with renewable energy. The Dutch Caribbean has led the way in terms of wind energy, with Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba all having significant generation capacity. The political connection to the Netherlands has helped with technical expertise and there has been economic support from the Dutch government. Jamaica has been able to build on the know-how of Dutch Caribbean countries in their own wind development.

Nevis, St Lucia and Dominica have all sought to develop geothermal energy projects, which is another source of renewable energy that has potential in the Caribbean. The Organisation of American States and the World Bank have provided capacity and financing support.

It is encouraging to see developments such as these. The groundwork has been laid through efforts of pioneers such as Wright and Headley and there are more grassroots leaders like Derek emerging.

But the efforts of individual champions cannot be successful without policies, legislation and economic incentives, which governments are slowly but surely putting in place. Having these policies on the books without recognising and supporting local businesses or providing an environment through which champions can come to the fore is likely to impede the progress of this spectacularly beautiful but vulnerable region in developing a flourishing green economy.

Some names have been changed.

Join the conversation with the hashtag#EnergyAccess.

Credit: The Guardian
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