Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Editorial | The Caribbean, climate and a post-fossil fuel future

Published:Thursday | December 14, 2017 | 12:09 AM

Emmanuel Macron's effort at re-energising the global climate movement in the face of Donald Trump's withdrawal of America from the Paris Agreement, will hopefully prove a fillip to a new initiative by Caribbean countries to mitigate their vulnerabilities to global warming, while lessening their own temperature-heating emissions.

At the same time, the project if current partners meet their commitments and others come on board is potentially transformative for the Caribbean and could prove to be a lesson in how imminent disaster can be turned to opportunity. It is this vision that Mr Trump, the US president, has thus far failed to grasp, but, hopefully, will eventually sooner rather than later embrace.

The mostly small island developing states of the Caribbean are particularly at risk from the rising oceans because the planet is becoming hotter, as well as from the increasingly topsy-turvy weather patterns associated with this phenomenon. The slew of devastating storms that caused such economic and social havoc across the region this past summer underlines those dangers.

This region, therefore, had a substantial stake in the summit Mr Macron, the French president, hosted in Paris on Tuesday to have the world, despite Mr Trump, not only remain focused on the problem of global warming, but for countries to follow through on their pledges to implement policies aimed at keeping the rise in the world's temperature to below 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century.

Importantly, the Caribbean is not merely being a passive bystander, dragged along by the efforts of others. On the sidelines of, but concomitant with Mr Macron's summit, the Caribbean, in partnership with international agencies, and firms and individuals, announced a public-private coalition to transform the region into what they called the world's first "climate-smart zone".

Through this initiative, the partners hope to catalyse US$8 billion in public and private investment in renewable energy to lessen the region's reliance on mostly imported, carbon-emitting fossil fuel, as well as infrastructure which are more resilient to the extreme weather events of the future. It is not only energy and basic infrastructure, however, that are the targets of this initiative. Food security, including new climate-smart approaches to agriculture; shelter; and new debt-management efforts are on the agenda.

 

Great opportunity

 

We perceive in this project a great opportunity for the Caribbean to accelerate, and deepen, its entry to the emerging post-fossil fuel technologies and the kind of economies facilitated by these transformations. Indeed, this coalition will potentially open doors for domestic and extra-regional entrepreneurs to work with Caribbean governments in public-private partnerships on ventures that give new impetus to the region's slow economic growth.

There are opportunities, too, for regional institutions involved in research and development to bring new ideas to the table, as well as for those who educate and train people. While many have already reoriented, or are reorienting their curricula or operating structures to the imperatives of a new, technology-driven economy, there was, until now, no specific policy agenda upon which they could focus their efforts.

Now, they are being told to help the region to begin to adapt to a post-fossil fuel environment and the technologies and skills that will be required therein. This, of course, is not entirely new. Renewable energy technologies are already creating new jobs around the world. Mr Trump may have taken a Luddite's perspective on this development. We should see things differently.