Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Earth Today | World Bank rep makes case for clean energy

Published:Thursday | September 17, 2020 | 12:15 AM

A MOVE to clean energy and a relook at the transport sector have been given the stamp of approval for the Caribbean and Latin America to build back better with COVID-19, given prevailing climate-change realities. This, from Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, vice-president of the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Clean energy and clean transport are key sectors in the region’s agenda to rebuild better. Though Latin America already produces most of its electricity from renewable sources, the most important, hydro generation, is increasingly vulnerable to climate change-induced variability and will be increasingly hard to scale to keep pace with increased demand expected once the COVID crisis abates,” he said in an opinion piece shared with The Gleaner.

“Non-traditional renewable energy, wind and solar in particular, are now cost-competitive in many countries if regulatory and contractual barriers to their integration into the energy matrix can be overcome. Energy-efficiency investments in buildings could reduce carbon footprints while generating many low-skill jobs during building retrofits,” he noted.

Clean energy has long been championed by celebrated climate scientist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Professor Anthony Chen as essential to a climate-resilient future for the region.

“Firstly, it is important to transition to solar and wind since these sources now provide electricity cheaper than or as cheap as gas, depending on the circumstances. The cost of energy storage is falling, and in the future, solar and wind, plus storage, will be able to provide the bulk of our electricity demand. We must be prepared to grasp the opportunity and not spend time catching up,” he told The Gleaner as far as back as 2018.

“Secondly, the world has to transition away from fossil fuel to successfully combat climate change. Adaptation alone cannot combat climate change. Only mitigation of greenhouse gases can. All countries of the world have to make the transition, including Jamaica, whose carbon footprint is not insignificant,” Chen added.

PUBLIC TRANSIT NEEDED

Concerning transport, Jaramillo said that there is need for the prioritisation of public transit.

“Designing cities to avoid sprawl and encouraging urban development around transit hubs, like metro and bus stops, will help reduce demand for motorised transit and should go hand-in-hand with affordable bus rapid transit and subway systems that increasingly integrate electric vehicles,” he said.

“When done well, adapting and building resilience to climate change can generate significant economic, social, and environmental benefits, unlocking growth and jobs while building up natural capital,” he added.

Chen, too, has noted the need to give attention to the transport sector.

“In addition to high environmental costs, dependence on expensive imported petroleum products has led to serious inefficiencies in the power sector thus eroding competitiveness. Therefore, reductions in the fuel-importation bill within the transport sector is paramount for Caribbean governments,” Chen wrote in a 2020 study, done collaboratively with other researchers and titled ‘Pathways to Climate Change Mitigation and Stable Energy by 100% Renewable for a Small Island: Jamaica as an Example’.

pwr.gleaner@gmail.com