The Caribbean nations have all the incentives and resources to convert to 100% renewable energy. But is it happening?
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Eight Caribbean countries will benefit from Japanese and United Nations financial assistance to help build their resilience to climate change.
On Thursday, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership was launched at the Radisson Aquatica Resort. It is a partnership between the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Vincent, St Lucia and Suriname are the countries benefiting from the project.
Minister-Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad, Masatoshi Sato, said his government envisaged that the project will assist the eight regional countries in developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the adopting of selected adaptation and mitigating technologies through various island projects.
He added that the US$15 million project to the eight countries was the forerunner to Japan fulfilling its COP 21 France pledge of approximately US$8.4 billion in public and private finance to developing countries.
“As such, Japan expects the project will enable the Caribbean countries to enhance their capacity to cope with climate change and natural disasters, thus assisting them in overcoming vulnerabilities particular to small island states,” the ambassador said.
He later told the Nation Japan had invited all CARICOM countries and the eight countries were the ones which had expressed an interest in the project.
“They are interested in making their countries more resilient to the impact of climate change,” he added.
Meanwhile, UNDP’s Resident Representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Stephen O’Malley, told the audience the project aimed to ensure that barriers to the implementation of climate resilient technologies were addressed and overcome in a participatory and efficient manner.
“There are many lessons we can learn from Japan and from each other and this project provides ample opportunity for the region to take advantage of Japanese experiences and knowledge, particularly as it relates to energy,” he said.
Also speaking was Director of the UNDP regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Hub, Rebeca Arias, who said December’s Paris agreement must be the starting point of a new era of climate action.
“It must permanently shift the global development trajectory towards one that is zero carbon and risk-informed,” she said.
Arias added that the project will facilitate climate mitigation and adaptation activities in the eight countries and will help them move towards “a green, no emission development pathway”.
Credit: Nation News
On December 12 in Paris, France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, brought to a close the UN climate change conference, COP 21.“I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document,” he said, and then seconds later: “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”
It was, according to some reports, an act of brinkmanship, as unresolved last minute concerns had been expressed by Nicaragua and there was, in a part of the final draft text, a difficulty surrounding US concerns about the use of the word ‘shall’ rather than the more discretionary word ‘should’; but with mysteriously, a typographical error being declared, the deal was done.
Apart from it demonstrating Mr Fabius’ outstanding ability to bring to a conclusion a multi-dimensional meeting in which unanimity was required if the world was ever to be able to address climate change; US concerns, driven by domestic politics, demonstrated how hard it may be for nations most at risk to obtain a viable outcome.
Caricom was ready for Paris. A task force had been set up two years ago and the region had a well-prepared position, a short-list of critical issues, and simple but memorable branding. In addition to a delegation led St Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Dr James Fisher, and the Caricom Secretary General, Irwin LaRoque, seven Caribbean Heads of Government travelled to Paris to express, at the opening, the region’s concerns, and to mobilise third-party support among the huge numbers of NGO’s, business interests, environmentalists and other present in Paris.
It was an outstanding example of where, in the pursuit of a common cause that touches everyone in the region, the regional institution can add real value and be an organisation to be proud of. It demonstrated in relation to important cross-cutting roles, a future for the secretariat.
For the Caribbean and other low lying small nations, for which sea level change and global warming are quite literally existential issues, what now is at stake is whether what has been agreed is deliverable; what the text means in practical terms; and how the region and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) intend ensuring that the many commitments made are delivered within the agreed time frame.
In outline, the thirty one page text agreed by 193 nations proposes that a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the sinks for ameliorating them is achieved in the second half of this century. It emphasizes the need to hold the increase in the global average temperature well below 2C (36F) above pre-industrial levels, proposes ‘pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C (35F)’, and that a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions be achieved as soon as possible. It accepts an asymmetrical approach enabling all developing countries – including large industrialised carbon emitters like China, India and Brazil – to have more time to adapt.
In a section that addresses loss and damage, it agrees a US$100bn annual minimum up to 2030 to enable support for mitigation and adaptation in developing nations, but does not accept there is any basis for compensation for loss and damage by carbon emitters. It also does not set a time scale for reaching greenhouse gas emission neutrality, or say anything about the shipping or aviation industries.
The problem for the Caribbean and all AOSIS’ 39 member states is whether what was agreed in Paris is prescriptive enough, or is so hedged round by the potential for opt-outs, delays, and unenforceability as to make it meaningless.
What it suggests that Caricom must now follow through, as the agreement as it stands is little more than an aspirational framework. Together with other AOSIS states it needs to determine how at the UN and in other fora it is going to hold the world to account for what has been agreed, then obtain, and successfully apply some of the money that will be available for both adaptation and mitigation.
This will not just be a test of the Caribbean’s staying power and the willingness of its governments to fund and support a continuing focus, but will also require that the region hold to account those countries that it supported during the negotiations. They will need to prove, when it comes to the Caribbean that their expressed concerns reflected more than just a need to obtain a satisfactory agreement. It is a position that will have to be deployed as much with China and Brazil as with the US and Europe.
In this, both Caricom and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) will continue to have a critical role in coordinating the regional effort. But it will also be up to governments to maintain the political momentum, demonstrate a unity of purpose, and to be determined to pay attention to the Caribbean’s implementation deficit.
Climate change is an issue on which the Caribbean has had every reason to have its voice heard and be taken very seriously. Fifty per cent of its population and the majority of the region’s productive enterprise and infrastructure lie within 1.2 miles of the sea. Its low lying nature, its fragile eco-systems, and extreme weather events demonstrate that it is a prime candidate to benefit from what has been agreed.
While countries in the region are often accused of allowing mendacity to drive their foreign policy, here is an example where the Caribbean deserves a transfer of resources if it, quite literally, is not to disappear beneath the sea.
Climate change also has a strategic importance. It enables the Caribbean to demonstrate an approach that owes more to the future than to the past; it is an issue on which it has a better chance to exert leverage; and one that can deliver national and regional development objectives. It is also an issue on which the region occupies the moral high ground and has popular international support.
Sea levels and water temperatures are rising and it will be some of the world’s smallest nations that will suffer first. Logic would therefore suggest that the Caribbean – a region of vulnerable, low or zero carbon emitting states – should be a significant early beneficiary of any resource transfer for adaptation. It is now up to Caricom to make this a public cause.
Credit: Dominican Today
“CARICOM’s interests were strongly represented in a focused and coordinated manner by heads of government, ministers, the CARICOM secretary-general (Irwin LaRocque)and his staff, and a team of experienced and skilled negotiators led by Dr the Honourable James Fletcher. We are satisfied that our strong advocacy helped to ensure that the [final] agreement reflected the region’s position on our major red-line issues,” Stuart, who is also prime minister of Barbados, said in a release issued by the CARICOM Secretariat through Panos Caribbean.
“The region’s successful campaign, built around the slogan ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’, received energetic support from several groups and organisations, including youth and cultural artistes, whose efforts must be applauded,” added Stuart.
The campaign kicked off in October with a launch event held in St Lucia. At the same time, a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account were established to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges.
Later, a theme song – the collaborative effort of a number of regional acts – was released.
Several other activities, including a Selfie Video Challenge and a flash mob, were also implemented to get Caribbean people in the know and behind the campaign effort.
At the talks, the region, for the first time, had a pavilion – called the Wider Caribbean Pavilion – that afforded the space for strategy meetings by regional negotiators and networking among players.
Caribbean artistes Aaron Silk of Jamaica and Adrian ‘The Doc’ Martinez of Belize were also on hand to spread, through music, the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ message, and were big hits with participants.
In the end, Stuart said it all paid off.
“We believe that the actions and investment approved in the agreement will bring us closer to the goal of maintaining global average temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius and along a clear trajectory downwards towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” he said.
“That agreement will also help to realise the goals of lower greenhouse gas emissions, greater resilience, and sustainable development, especially among the small-island and low-lying coastal developing states (SIDS), with the most vulnerable populations such as the countries of the Caribbean. We determinedly and successfully promoted recognition of the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of SIDS, which are among the lowest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but are the most threatened by climate change,” Stuart added.
One Jamaican actor involved in the negotiations agreed that the Caribbean could feel satisfied with the result.
“The CARICOM region can be satisfied with the outcome, which retains the recognition under the (United Nations Framework) Convention (on Climate Change), of the fact that SIDS have specific needs and face special circumstances which render our territories particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. We have also secured a decision for equal funding for adaptation and mitigation,” noted Colonel Oral Khan, a member of the Jamaica delegation to Paris and chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.
“This is very significant for us as the science is telling us that the concentration of greenhouse gases is already at a level that can be catastrophic. We, therefore, cannot await the benefits from current mitigation efforts, which will be realised over the next half a century. There are things we must do now to protect vital sectors of our economy and the lives of our people,” he added.
What remains is to have these things actioned.
“The international community must now retain the energising and uplifting spirit of Paris in the process going forward. The world expects no less,” Stuart said.
Credit: Jamaica Gleaner
British Prime Minister David Cameron has set aside £5.6 million (US$8.4 million) of its overseas aid budget to go towards improving fishing in the Caribbean and other small island states.
Among the 25 Commonwealth small island nations set to benefit are: Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago.
Cameron said the money will be provided from next year to target developing maritime economy plans, with additional funding on offer for future years to help these countries implement their plans.
The funding will provide for: technical experts from the UK Hydrographic Office to locate valuable marine resources and mitigate the hazards to shipping that would otherwise make the exploitation of those resources uneconomical; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science to work with the countries to strengthen their capacity to manage their local fisheries, tackle pollution and develop coastal infrastructure; and assistance from the National Oceanographic Centre to map maritime zones, producing vital data to identify new investment and growth opportunities and helping to preserve biodiversity
Cameron said the package would support small island countries to preserve their marine environments – often a primary source of income for these countries – and tap into maritime resources to catalyze economic development in a sustainable way across Commonwealth countries.
The funds are part of a wider £26 million (US$39 million) package – that will address climate change issues – which the UK leader announced at the just ended Commonwealth Summit in Malta, ahead of the climate change summit in Paris which runs until December 11.
It includes £15 million (US$22.5 million) to fund disaster insurance for Pacific islands to help countries get quick access to funding aid if they suffer a natural catastrophe; £5 million (US$7.5 million) will assist poor states with natural disaster prevention plans; and £1 million (US$1.5 million) to help raise money for infrastructure projects.
Credit: Caribbean 360
As the highly anticipated Climate Change Conference begins today in Paris, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) lead Head on Climate Change and Sustainable Development is issuing a grave warning.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony says that “unless we can get the countries that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases to commit to more ambitious reductions, the Caribbean will be confronted with more extreme storms and hurricanes, more frequent and prolonged droughts, dangerous sea-level rise that will wash away roads, homes, hotels, and ports in every island; greater food insecurity and more acidic oceans that will kill our corals, damage our fish stock and negatively impact our tourism industries.”
Heads of State and Government, Ministers responsible for the Environment, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Scientists and other stakeholders are coming together in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to negotiate a new global climate change agreement.
Credit: ZIZ Online
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Credit: The Guardian
The journalists and artistes, including Jamaica’s Aaron Silk, are complemented by participants from St Lucia’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, and Technology – another partner in the workshop.
“The workshop is a prep meeting for Paris, pulling together a range of stakeholders, including popular artistes and journalists with the aim to come up with a strategy to bring attention to the small island position of ‘1.5 degrees to stay alive’,” said Indi Mclymont Lafayette, country coordinator and programme director with Panos.
“We really want to ensure that if an agreement is signed in Paris, it is one that won’t mean the death of small islands in the long run,” she added.
The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), including CARICOM, have as far back as the Copenhagen Talks in 2009, called for a long-term goal to “limit global average temperatures to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to long-term stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations to well below 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent”.
At the time, science adviser to AOSIS Dr Al Binger predicted that given sea-level rise, residents of small island states would eventually have to ‘swim for it’.
“We need to improve our boat-building art [and] teach our kids to swim because sooner or later, we are going to have to swim for it,” he said.
Speaking more recently at the French Embassy-hosted climate change debate in Kingston this year, physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, Dr Michael Taylor, painted a grim picture for a Caribbean in a world where average global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees.
According to Taylor, the two degrees advanced by developed country partners may prove “too much for us to deal with”, given warmer days and nights and more variable rainfall, among other impacts,now being experienced.
Meanwhile, Mclymont Lafayette said the workshop – having educated artistes about climate change and journalists on reporting on it – would seek to craft a communication plan to bring a broader set of stakeholders up to date as to what is at stake for the region.
“We are looking at a strategy over the next few months of some of the things that could be done. [These include] the journalists to report on climate change; the artistes to use their performing platforms and media interviews to bring attention to the issues and the negotiators to work in tandem with them,” she said.
“It would be good if we could have an awareness campaign leading up to Paris and also while in Paris, have a side event that would really capture a lot of the issues and provide a gateway for hearing or having good discussions on the impacts on the islands,”Mclymont Lafayette added.
The workshop – done with co-financing from Climate Analytics, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre – forms a part of a larger Panos project for which they continue to fundraise.
That project aims promote civil society involvement in the discourse on climate change in the region, through, among other things, facilitating their participation in the upcoming Paris Talks.
Credit: Jamaica Gleaner
Government climate negotiators and civil society groups from the Caribbean who met with artistes and journalists here last week have discussed strategies to drum up local awareness and attract international attention as part of the region’s preparation for the climate change meeting in Paris at the end of the year.
The plan is to roll out some of the projects simultaneously across the region ahead of the Paris talks and stage one or two others during the session.
The Paris talks are called COP 21 and will be the stage for the countries of the world to agree to reducing carbon emissions from power plants, factories, and other types of industry, in order to keep global temperatures down.
Island states, according to published scientific data, are projected to suffer the most from increasing temperatures and the related sea level rise. As such, the Caribbean, as part of the Alliance of Small Island States, is seeking to start a movement among its own peoples to shine a light on the specific ways the region will be affected in hopes that it will sway the developed world.
If carbon emissions continue unabated, projections are that global temperatures will rise by as much as four degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Globally, the discussion is to keep it at two degrees, but the Caribbean wants to limit it to 1.5 degrees and has been using the slogan ‘1.5 to stay alive’.
St Lucia’s minister of sustainable development Senator James Fletcher, who hosted the meeting, explained the rationale for the regional approach.
“The region has not done enough to elevate the issue of climate change… we need to amplify our voices both in the region and on the international stage,” he said.
Fletcher suggested that the Caribbean follow the example of the Pacific Islands, which, he said, was a good example of climate action on a regional scale, by co-ordinating the messages it wants to be communicated in ways that galvanise support and attract mass attention.
The St Lucia meeting was called ‘Climate Voices on and for Climate Change’. In addition to the ministry of sustainable development, its sponsors included Panos Caribbean, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Organization of American States.
Credit: Jamaica Observer
The Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN) Project produced a local music video: This Is Who WE ARE by Ambi, J Mouse, Famus and Bridget Barkan for respecting Marine Life across 6 Caribbean Islands. Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Lucia.