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A Challenge for the Caribbean: Nature and Tourism

Excerpt taken from the Inter-American Development Bank’s publication:

Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21: No. 41: March, 2017

Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, (CCCCC)

One of the greatest injustices of pollution is that its consequences are not limited to those who produce it. The Caribbean is one of the least polluting regions in the world but it is also one of the most exposed to global warming due to the importance of the tourism sector within its economy.

Carlos Fuller, an expert from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, explains the consequences of the region’s dependence on petroleum and analyzes the potential of public policy for supporting renewable energy.

How is climate change impacting the Caribbean?

The Caribbean’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small because we have a small population, we are not very industrialized, and we don’t do a lot of agriculture, so we don’t emit a lot. However, mitigation is important for us because of the high cost of fuel and energy. Most of our islands depend on petroleum as a source of energy, and when oil prices were above US$100 per barrel, we were spending more than 60% of our foreign exchange on importing petroleum products into the Caribbean. In that respect, we really want to transition to renewable energy sources as we have considerable amounts of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy potential.

Has climate change started to affect tourism?

It has. Climate change is severely impacting our natural attractions, our tourist attractions. For example, we have a significant amount of erosion because of sea level rise, wave action, and storm surges, which is causing tremendous erosion and affecting our beaches. Our coral reefs, which are a big attraction, are also suffering a lot of bleaching which is impacting our fish stock. Those resources are being affected significantly. We do have significant protected areas; however, we need more resources to enforce the protection of these.

What role do public policies play in developing renewable energy?

In some countries, [we’re] doing reasonably well on this front. In Belize, for example, we now have independent coal producers and we have transitioned to an increased use of hydro, solar, and biomass, so more than 50% of our domestic electricity supply is from renewable energy sources. However, on many of the islands, we need to create an enabling environment to allow renewable energy to penetrate the market. We are going to need a lot of assistance from the international community to put in the regulatory framework that will allow us to develop renewable energy in these places. We then need to attract potential investors to provide sources of renewable energy in the region. Of course, the Caribbean’s tourism is an important sector of the economy, which is one of the reasons we need to protect our reserves and natural parks. We are also trying to make our buildings more resilient to the effects of extreme weather. That is the focus of our work.

How does the Green Climate Fund work? 

The Green Climate Fund is headquartered in South Korea and it has an independent board of management. However, various agencies can be accredited to access the fund directly. We have already applied for a project to preserve the barrier reef and another to promote biomass use in the Caribbean. So, we have two projects in the pipeline through the Green Climate Fund which are valued at around US$20 million.

Do you think that the Paris and Marrakesh summits brought concrete results for the region?

We were very pleased with the outcome in Paris. The objectives that the Caribbean Community wanted were achieved: the limit for warming was set at 2°C; adaptation was considered along with mitigation; finance, technology transfer, and capacity building were included; and a compliance system was put in place. All the things that we wanted out of Paris, we achieved, and so we are very happy with that.

Peruse the complete Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21

St. Lucia Commits to Solar Power

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PRESS RELEASE – The Government of Saint Lucia has a target of generating 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This pristine island currently depends on dirty diesel generators for power, but has ambitious goals to revolutionize its economy with solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Solar represents the easiest attainable resource, and Saint Lucia is already famous for its sunshine, which draws visitors from around the world.

To mark the start of its own renewable revolution, the Government of Saint Lucia has partnered with the non-profit Solar Head of State to install solar panels on the public residence of the Governor-General, Government House. Solar Head of State’s mission is to help world leaders to role-models in environmental stewardship by encouraging the adoption of solar PV on prominent government buildings. Saint Lucia’s officials first announced their intention to install the panels on the Government House at the Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015.

Saint Lucia’s recently appointed Minister, with responsibility for Renewable Energy, Hon. Dr. Gale Rigobert, said, “The commitment of Saint Lucia to transit from dependence on fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy is demonstrated here by this project to install solar panels at the Governor General’s official residence.”

The plan will also help to reduce energy costs for citizens of Saint Lucia which, like most island nations, suffers from astronomically high electricity costs that hinder economic development. The government, in collaboration with the local electricity utility LUCELEC, is currently completing the bidding process on its first utility scale installation, a 3MW solar PV facility that will power 5-8% of the national energy demand.

Solar Head of State assembled an international consortium of project donors from across the clean energy sector to carry out the project. Major contributions were received from California-based solar installation company Sungevity and from the California Clean Energy Fund. Panels were donated by manufacturer Trina Solar and inverters from Enphase Energy. Support was also received from Elms Consulting, a London-based strategic consulting firm working to accelerate sustainable development on islands. Australian firms Wattwatchers and Solar Analytics provided system-monitoring expertise and equipment.

The engineering and construction was donated by British Virgin Islands based Free Island Energy; and Saint Lucian company Noah Energy. Strategic partners include the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Carbon War Room, and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

“This is a terrific opportunity to help grow the local economy and create local jobs. Free Island Energy and Noah Energy trained local trades to build this project, and now there are trained solar technicians in Saint Lucia – keeping money and skilled jobs on the island,” said Marc Lopata, President of Free Island Energy.

Solar Head of State also has won support from globally prominent sustainability and renewable energy champions including high-profile entrepreneur and adventurer, Sir Richard Branson; environmentalist and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben; and former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who became the first 21st century solar head of state when he put an 11.5kW solar system on his Presidential Palace in 2010.

Sir Richard Branson, a long-time supporter of Caribbean efforts to use renewable energy commented “It’s wonderful to see this type of leadership for a cleaner and brighter future in this region that I love so much – and from a small island too! Congratulations, Saint Lucia and Solar Head of State on this fantastic initiative that sends a positive and strong message to the world.”

Danny Kennedy, author of ‘Rooftop Revolution’ and Sungevity co-founder, played a key role in both the installation of solar on Nasheed’s Presidential Palace in the Maldives in 2010, and in pressing President Obama to bring solar back to The White House in 2011. Now he hopes this campaign will go global and world leaders everywhere will take the initiative to install solar on their residences.

“There will be a time when not using solar will be unthinkable for any elected leader, and it is closer than many people think,” said Kennedy. “Once they get the opportunity to have rooftop solar, people love it. But at the start of the solar uptake process, support from governments and leadership by example from political leaders is vital to building early momentum.”

“That’s why the example being set by the Government of Saint Lucia to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in the Caribbean, is so important. It’s one roof today, but will be many over the years ahead. The rooftop revolution has come to Saint Lucia.”

Starting with Saint Lucia, Solar Head of State’s smart solar roll-out is focused on five small states in the Caribbean this year and early next year. Then the campaign will be looking further afield to Asia and the Pacific islands towards the end of 2017 and beyond.

See photos of Solar Head of State here.

 MEDIA CONTACTS

Solar Head of State

James Ellsmoor – Email: jellsmoor@solarheadofstate.org; Phone : +1 919 338 4564 / +1 758 722 8404

Maya Doolub

mdoolub@solarheadofstate.org

+44 7817 638 324

Government of Saint Lucia

Permanent Secretary Sylvester Clauzel

sylvester.clauzel@govt.lc

+1 758 468 5840 / +1 758 720 3119

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

Will fiscal policy help move us towards a green economy?

The Green Growth Knowledge Platform recently held a conference in Venice that brought the importance of implementing properly designed green fiscal reforms to the attention of academics and policy-makers. The primary objective is environmental protection and climate change control, but also the setting of fairly uniform regulatory and taxation frameworks to avoid competitiveness concerns in those countries adopting more stringent environmental policies. Or to avoid excessive social problems in developing countries, because social impacts of green fiscal reforms are of often as important as the environmental ones.

Green tax reforms, designed to tax activities that result in environmental damage and excessive natural resource use, to redirect public and private investments from fossil fuel based activities to low carbon alternatives, to fuel green economy development, and to provide markets with the right signals for sustainable long-term investments, may indeed raise production costs in countries adopting them, thus reducing firms’ international competitiveness. Or may imply revenue reductions in important sectors of society.

The 3rd Annual Green Growth Knowledge Platform Conference held in Venice, Italy on the 29-30 January 2015 (you can find all papers presented at the conference here) gathered experts and policy-makers from several countries, particularly developing countries, as well as experts from international organizations, who shared knowledge and forged pathways towards better future implementation of green fiscal instruments.

The conference provided both theoretical analyses and best practices of concrete implementations of fiscal instruments designed to control climate change, natural resource excessive exploitation and local pollution. It also provided a useful exchange of views and suggestions between two communities (scientists and economists on the one hand, policy leaders on the other) that hardly interact. Let us summarize some of the main findings.

A variety of instruments, often country specific

Often the full range of fiscal reforms remains unexplored. As suggested by Franks et. al, this is partly due to governments’ preference for a taxation approach, which enables the scarcity rents to be reinvested in infrastructure. Revenue recycling of environmental taxes also facilitates a reduction in distortionary taxes and can be used to support green R&D.

However, despite the benefits of green taxes, other approaches can often facilitate green economic growth. Governments need to capitalize on the full range of fiscal policy options. For example, some governments have implemented feed-in tariffs to kickstart investments in renewable energy from sources such as solar, geothermal and wind. This is achieved by guaranteeing a tariff for a set period of time (up to 20 years in some cases) and thenphasing out this support over time as the share of renewable energy increases and becomes competitive with conventional fuels. This initial support is essential for redirecting capital flows from carbon based energy because, as Vona and Verdolini show, long-term investments have already been placed in existing fossil fuel infrastructure, which implies that changes in energy production will be slow and nearly impossible to achieve without a trigger.

In addition to feed-in tariff options, governments are also developing targeted financial programs that support the purchase of energy efficient appliances. These schemes, while important, require understanding and working with behavioral norms. For instance, Nadia Ameli shows that the application of these programs to households is more effective if the residents are landlords or are from high-income backgrounds.

These more innovative schemes are not confined to the more financially-secure developed countries. Indeed, the Tunisian government used US$24 million of public funds to promote the use of solar water heaters. In Mauritius, one of the pioneers of traditional fiscal reform through environmental taxation, we see the development of a number of green fiscal measures, including an excise duty on petroleum products and a charge on energy inefficient products. These policies have been able to elicit changes in both consumption and production behavior. As a positive side effect, the revenue generated as a result of these fiscal policies is equivalent to 2.6% of the country’s 2013 GDP.  This capital can be used to further support green economic growth.

The adoption of green fiscal instruments is not limited to the energy sector. Another crucial area is water. Here fiscal measures can play a critical role in ensuring sustainable water supplies through incentivizing water efficiency, stimulating investment in water supply infrastructure, ensuring affordability of water services and countering the unchecked pollution and abstraction of water sources. In fact, the use of taxing (along with tariffs and transfers) can ensure that the cost of the environmental externalities associated with water use is internalized and that water is therefore appropriately priced. On this note,encouraging news comes from Philippines where a wastewater effluent fee was introduced in Manila in 1997. This fee aimed to counter the extreme degradation of the Laguna de Bay watershed that was being used as a dumping ground by nearby industries. As a consequence of the fee, industries changed their production processes to reduce the volume of effluent that was discharged into the watershed.

 

3rd Annual Green Growth Knowledge Platform Conference held in Venice, Italy on the 29-30 January 2015

Removing subsidies

There is a growing realization that the transition to a green economy will not be achieved if countries continue to hide the true cost of current consumption patternsby subsidizing fossil fuels. This withdrawal of support has freed up capital that can now be spent in more efficient and beneficial ways. Often these savings can be redirected to fund social development, such as improved health, education and living standards. In Kenya, for instance, as Alice Kaudia convincingly explained, the government improved the country’s electricity network through the funds made available by removing fossil fuel subsidies.

Divesting from fossil fuel sources, particularly in cities and transport-intensive areas, not only encourages movement towards a green economy, but has direct positive impacts on health. This, in turn, means that governments will have to spend less on national health care. So even more public savings can be made. Shifting from these fossil fuel investments is especially important in developing countries. This is because, even though climate finance mechanisms are attempting to make development and climate mitigation compatible, fossil fuel subsidies are so vast that the climate finance given is almost insignificant.

As well as removing environmentally damaging subsidies, government can also encourage renewable energy subsidies in terms of technology innovation, adoption and manufacturing incentives. Though the enacting of these subsidies must be carefully designed because they are starting to be touted for their ability to distort international trade. At the conference, Carolyn Fisher analysed how the EU and US have both tabled complaints against China’s subsidization of solar photovoltaic production on the grounds that this support constitutes illegal aid to the companies.

Moreover, while there is some enthusiasm around the subsidization of clean energy, this may not in fact be the solution people are seeking. This is because some subsidies, especially upstream subsidies, tend to pick technology winners. This prevents the take-up of clean energy technology in the most cost-effective and efficient manner since picking the renewable energy options you want to subsidize withholds the funding other renewable energies that could, with the technological development, deliver energy in a cost-effective way.

Barriers to redirecting investments

The fact that developing green fiscal policies not only weans us off our fossil fuel dependency, but also can ensure savings and social benefits leaves you wondering why these measures have not been enacted with greater enthusiasm. Four main barriers have been highlighted at the conference. First, policymakers feel that they are damaging their economic competitiveness if they enact environmentally related policies when other countries do not do it. Second, green fiscal instruments would perhaps be more readily accepted were they to be introduced as part of a broader fiscal reform. Third, it’s often hard to effectively communicate the economic, social and environmental benefits that these reforms would bring.

A final important drawback is that, as with any reform, there will be winners and losers. One of the roles of government is to guarantee support for the affected groups. This is achievable. Indonesia, for instance, subsidized health care, rice production, village infrastructure and provided scholarships to economically-vulnerable groups to prevent against the worse impacts of inflation due to fossil fuel subsidy reform. As Renner et al. discussed in Venice, in Indonesia, and other places facing similar reforms, such protection schemes are essential since fossil fuel energy subsidies incur higher public spending than health, education and social protection combined, suggesting that the removal of subsidies will catalyze political and economic upset.

Green fiscal reforms need to be carefully designed and implemented in line with strong and sustainable governance to ensure that the reforms are effective and able to be maintained. Their design, especially of tax measures, needs to focus on activities that are inelastic in order to reduce welfare loss. Equally, this must be achieved while minimizing the aggregate deadweight loss for any given revenue or government expenditure.

3rd Annual Green Growth Knowledge Platform Conference held in Venice, Italy on the 29-30 January 2015

The way forward

Green fiscal policy clearly has a strong role to play in the transition towards a green economy. Even the limitations it presents are not insurmountable. Governments need, however, to start thinking more creatively, moving beyond using just environmental taxation, in particular in developing countries. See, for instance, Chaturvedi et al. on how India is developing alternative fiscal strategies, including deregulating petrol prices, introducing a coal cess and subsidizing the establishing of common effluent treatment plants.

Even so, more than moving into using a range of environmental fiscal reform methods, we need to stop seeing such reforms in solely an environment sector capacity. The transport sector, for instance, has much to offer in environmental improvements without necessarily terming them as such.

Further, we can explore ways of making such reforms more appealing to the people they will affect. Other approaches need to be used in combination with fiscal reform, such as communication and engagement with the parties concerned as well as improved monitoring. Sirini Withana suggested the use of complementary policies to increase the effectiveness of such reforms. Potential complementary policies might include behavioral change approaches that can incentivize the adoption of energy-efficient and low-carbon energy options.

A session moderated by Elke Weber emphasized the importance of combining behavioral, social and technological changes to stimulate the acceptance of the policy reforms that will lead us towards a low carbon future.

Before all these developments, we must overcome the notion that these decisions will come at a political and economic cost. If anything, this conference has shown that we can no longer use economic disadvantages as a reason for inaction. Solutions are being sought to address this concern and we need to listen to them to effectively start on the path to global green growth.

Credit: International Center for Climate Governance

What’s the difference between Weather and Climate?

Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

Our climate is changing, but do you know the difference between Climate and Weather?

Climate and weather have one difference. Weather measures the conditions of the atmosphere, through temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation, over a short period of time (day, week and month). Climate is the average weather for a particular region and time period, usually taken over 30 years. The climate system is very complex and studying it does not only mean looking at what is going on in the atmosphere but also in the ground, oceans, glaciers and so forth.

Climate change doesn’t mean variability will stop, in the same way that climate change won’t cause hurricanes to stop in the Caribbean. What is happening in Europe can be attributed to the natural variability effect; there’s late winter effect and early winter effect. So this must be seen in a global sense.

While Europe may be experiencing a late winter, others might be experiencing an early spring effect. Last year, in the United States, they had very early spring

~Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE, Executive Director, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

Interview with the Jamaica Observer, June 2013

Connect with us and learn more about climate change:
Credit: CCCCC

Credit: CCCCC

 

Clean Development Mechanism Opportunity in Belize

Cave KarstThe Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, is accepting Project Idea Notes (PINs) focused on energy efficiency and conservation, solid and liquid bio-fuels and biogas, wind and solar energy and the transport sector until 4pm on Friday, August 23, 2013.

The PINs  are a requirement for Belize’s participation in the Clean Development Mechanism capacity building programme,  and will be submitted as part of the project approval process as set out in the fourth and fifth schedule of the Environmental Protection (Clean Development Mechanism) Regulations, 2011.

The CDM programme is being implemented in collaboration with the European Commission and United Nations Environment Programme, through the UNEP RISO Centre—a leading international research and advisory institution on energy, climate and sustainable development.

The request for expressions of interest is aimed at national and/or regional project developers and consultants with technical and other capacities in the identification, design and implementation of projects—preferably in the environmental field.

The project seeks to strengthen the technical capacity of national consultants in the design of Project Idea Notes (PIN).

Read the Ministry’s ad here and peruse the official Request For Proposal here.

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