Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Finland expresses interest in CARICOM’s bioenergy potential

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2017 | 5:26 PM
Finland Ambassador to CARICOM, Kukka Pietikaine meeting with CARICOM SG Irwin LaRocque.

Finland has expressed an interest in exploring the bioenergy potential in mainland territories of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Newly accredited Finland envoy to CARICOM Kukka Pietikaine said his country wanted to continue cooperation in renewable energy technologies.

He said forest based bioenergy has a central role in Finland’s economy, with 80 per cent of its renewable energy coming from forest biomass and that CARICOM and Finland “should take a closer look” at the region’s bioenergy potential.

He said Finland was one of the global leaders in waste-to-energy solutions and a forerunner in biofuel technologies.

He said another interesting field of cooperation between CARICOM and Finland could be the development of wave energy, with Finland also possessing “first class technologies in this field,” adding, “a preliminary wave energy assessment would be the first step for the development of the blue energy resources.”

CARICOM and Finland formalised diplomatic relations in 2009. Finland became one of the first non-hemispheric donors to the CARICOM Development Fund, which was ratified in 2008 to provide financial or technical assistance to the disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors. Its contribution to regional development has also been through support in education, sustainable energy, sea governance, and meteorology.

The Finnish diplomat said that his country has been cooperating with the region over 15 years beginning with a programme between the Finnish national meteorological institute and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology. Another phase of a region-wide initiative is expected to begin this year and it will further increase the capacity of national weather centres to analyse severe weather conditions.

CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque said that the areas of CARICOM-Finland cooperation are all critical to the sustainable development of Member States.

He noted that the Memorandum of Understanding on Political Dialogue and Technical Cooperation between CARICOM and countries of the Nordic Region signed in September 2016, symbolised the importance that both sides place on the relationship. He said he looked forward to advancing the Community’s cooperation with Finland around the priority areas identified in the MOU, as well as in international fora.

He told the new Finnish Ambassador that an ever-present issue in CARICOM’s diplomatic advocacy was adequate access to the necessary development funding to finance development efforts, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

LaRocque reiterated CARICOM struggles with challenges to their best efforts to advance socio-economic interests of the region.

“The Caribbean Community firmly believes that GDP per capita should not be the only measure used in determining the development status of a country, and hence its access to concessional financing.  “CARICOM continues to urge our international development partners to revisit their policies on graduation of SIDS that are categorised as middle-income countries based on the flawed criteria of GDP per capita.

“Here in CARICOM, we believe that criteria such as the degree of vulnerability, including exposure to natural disasters and other exogenous shocks inherent to our member states, can facilitate a more reliable and accurate measure of a country’s developmental progress.  Already, there are global partners who have demonstrated a willingness to take that reality into account,” he added.

He also informed the new Finnish Ambassador of CARICOM’s concerns regarding some European countries that have categorised some CARICOM member states as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, despite the fact that those countries were not so designated by the relevant global regulatory authorities.

“CARICOM remains steadfast in its efforts to protect the integrity of its financial system by ensuring compliance with relevant global standards.

“The global regulatory bodies have determined that CARICOM Member States are compliant with the international standards set for regulating the financial services sector. We request that that standard be accepted by all as the basis of assessing our compliance,” Secretary-General LaRocque said pointing out that the blacklisting of some CARICOM jurisdictions had precipitated the “de-risking” strategies employed some international banks.

He said the result has been withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships.

“This particularly affects our indigenous banks and other financial services entities and could lead to the disconnection of our small economies from the global economy.  Its socio-economic impact would be disastrous, given that remittances which are the main source of income for many of our poorest citizens will be affected,” LaRocque said.