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Energy sector to decide CARICOM’s future — Liburd

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2016 | 6:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Following an introduction by University of the West Indies (UWI) Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Dale Webber (centre), Ian Liburd (right), minister of public infrastructure, post, urban development, and transport for St Kitts and Nevis, greets Bruno Pouezat, UN resident coordinator/United Nations Development Programme resident representative. The occasion was the recent energy conference, held at the UWI, Mona campus.

"THE ENERGY sector will determine our future." That is the prediction of Minister of Public Infrastructure, Post, Urban Development, and Transport for St Kitts and Nevis Ian Liburd.

He was speaking at the June 21 energy conference held at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, under the theme 'Leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals for an Energy-secure Caribbean'.

"As countries in the Caribbean region, we face a common challenge in that we are heavily dependent upon the use of fossil-fuel oil to generate electricity. Reducing fossil fuel costs must be a priority for the Caribbean region," he said.

"US Secretary of State John Kerry said that 'energy is the market of the future'. I submit that the energy sector will determine our future," Liburd added.

To that end, he said, "we must provide incentives for industry and public education to help in encouraging energy efficiency and in moving towards low carbon growth and growth that is equitable for developing countries like ours in the Caribbean Region".

His comments come as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) moves to shore up a regional approach to realising a secure and efficient energy future for its member countries. And this, at a time when the climate is changing - fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions, a primary source of which is fossil fuels such as oil, on which the region is so dependent.

The CARICOM Energy Policy was approved in 2013 and only last week, Dr Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy with the CARICOM Secretariat, revealed that work is to begin shortly on an energy efficiency strategy for the region.

THREAT TO SMALL-ISLAND STATES

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Regional Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy 2015 Baseline Report and Assessment would seem to support Liburd's prediction.

"Heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels exposes many Caribbean countries to volatile oil prices, produces high electricity tariffs, limits economic development and social opportunity, and negatively affects human health and the environment," the document said.

"It also fails to establish a precedent for global action to mitigate the long-term consequences of climate change, which pose an urgent threat to small-island states and low-lying coastal nations," added the report, which is co-authored by Alexander Ochs, Mark Konold, Katie Auth, Evan Musolino, and Philip Killeen.

At the same time, it makes the case for a regional approach to energy security.

"Regional targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions are important for CARICOM because they can unite individual member states behind a unified vision for sustainability in the Caribbean while ensuring that national action plans are mutually enhancing rather than conflicting," the report said.

"CARICOM member states also must take advantage of opportunities for energy efficiency improvements at all stages of the energy sector, including generation, transformation, distribution, and final energy consumption. This process should begin at the regional level to provide the necessary guidance for appropriate target setting at the national level," the report added.

Further, notwithstanding CARICOM's minimal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, the report advances that "an ambitious emissions reduction target will be critical in signalling to the international climate mitigation community, in particular financing and technical support bodies, that CARICOM is committed to promoting sustainability through energy sector transformation".

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