The 2017 edition of the CARICOM Energy Month (CEM) got off to an impressive start on Monday, 30 October, in Port au Prince, with His Excellency Jovenel Moïse, the President Haiti, participating in the opening session of a symposium. The event launched the CEM and brought together many of the actors in Haiti’s energy sector.
In his assessment of the Haitian sector, the Haitian President declared that he intended to “make universal and reliable access to energy a key factor of economic development”. He highlighted the country’s potential to utilise and develop clean, renewable sources of energy.
“But it’s not only a question of producing energy and making it accessible to people” said the President. “We also have to collect revenue. Energy cannot be free; everywhere in the world one has to pay for energy. This has to be properly reflected in our energy policy”.
President Moïse noted that the public and private sectors both had a role to play in the development of the sector, and he took the opportunity of this address to illustrate some of the measures and actions taken by his administration to boost clean, renewable energy (solar, hydro, hydraulic, wind, and biomass) in the overall energy mix.
In order to meet this challenge, the Haitian President called for innovation and investment in energy production and distribution, and he had special words for the university students who were in the audience.
“Do not wait for your final dissertation”, said President Moïse, “to contribute to the transformation the energy sector. You can act now”.
Indeed, the role of universities and research institutions was highlighted by many of the speakers in this event, notably by Prof. Fritz Desormes, the Chancellor of the Université d’Etat d’Haïti. He stressed “the availability and readiness of the Haitian institutions of higher learning to contribute to the development of alternative technologies”.
Regional cooperation was another recurrent theme in the deliberations of this Symposium, with Dr René Jean-Jumeau, the Executive Director of the Haitian Energy Institute and overall facilitator of the Symposium, noting that there had been major advances in the energy sector in the Caribbean in recent years. He added that there was much that Haiti can benefit from increased cooperation with the rest of CARICOM.
This theme was echoed by Dr. Devon Gardner, Head of the Energy Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat, who concluded his presentation to the Symposium by indicating that:
“Together, we can make significant advances in providing secure, efficient and cost efficient supplies of energy that can sustainably power the future of this region, this nation and its people.”
In its technical sessions, the Symposium, which was hosted jointly by the Haitian Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communication and the CARICOM Secretariat, gave participants the opportunity to examine and discuss in some details the opportunities offered by the regional energy policy as well as the options for the development of renewable energies in Haiti.
Throughout the month of November, the CARICOM Secretariat, under the theme RE-thinking energy: shaping a resilient community, will spearhead activities aimed at raising awareness of energy issues and options in the region, at generating support for innovation and solutions, and at encouraging behavioural change.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is mobilising resources to support reconstruction of hurricane-ravaged Member States to build back smarter and better, against the existential threat of climate change.
Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said that intention was in “full knowledge that we are into a new era,” when hurricanes had now become “game changers.”
He was at the time speaking at the opening of Technical Consultations at the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference, earlier this morning (20 November) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
— PNUDLAC (@PNUDLAC) November 20, 2017
The CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference is to mobilise national governments, regional organisations, international development partners, private sector, and civil society to support the construction of what can become the world’s first hurricane-resilient countries.
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Reminding the stakeholders of the hurricane devastation, Secretary-General LaRocque said two category five hurricanes in two weeks and one, Maria, going from a category 1 to a category 5 in less than 36 hours, was a signal of a dangerous change in the intensity and frequency of climate events.
“The Region must therefore adapt to this reality. Time is not on our side. The next hurricane season is seven months away,” he stated.
He reminded that the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at their 21st Meeting (COP21) in Paris, December 2015, agreed to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2° C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5° C.”
September’s hurricanes have proven that 1.5 is critical to Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS) which are highly vulnerable to climatic hazards.
He said that since the Paris Agreement Caribbean scientists have carried out studies to explore the consequences of both a 1.5 and 2.0 degree Centigrade warmer world.
“They have found that given the current trend, the 1.5° C target will occur within the next decade, much sooner than previously anticipated. With 1.5° C , the scientists are predicting generally harsher climatic conditions for our Region.”
Emphasising the urgency of resilient reconstruction he said: “We must prepare for the next catastrophic hurricane, flood or drought. We must therefore be climate-resilient in time for the next event.”
He said the Community had been taking steps to embed resilience in its planning with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)-led Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy 2014-2024, to continue its role as the Caribbean’s platform for achieving risk resilience.
The strategy embraces key sectors such as Agriculture, Tourism, Health, Education, Finance, and Physical and Environmental Planning. Additionally, it places increased focus on harmonising disaster risk reduction and climate change considerations.
However, he noted that it was obvious that given the new normal, much more needed to be done.
The Secretary-General lauded the Governments and People of the Caribbean Community and its Institutions, whom he noted “have stood up to be counted in assisting the affected states.”
He added that the Community was eternally grateful to the International Community for “rendering tremendous support,” including the UNDP for its invaluable support to the CARICOM-UNDP Pledging Conference.
New York, 21 November 2017 – In view of the urgent needs of Caribbean islands affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the “CARICOM-UN High-level Pledging Conference: Building a more Climate-Resilient Community ” mobilised a broad partnership to support reconstruction efforts, including through over US$1.3 billion in pledges and over $1 billion in loans and debt relief.
Support derived from nearly 400 high-level representatives from governments, multilateral and civil society organizations and the private sector gathered at UN headquarters today with the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to help countries to “build back better” as the first climate-resilient countries in the world
— PNUDLAC (@PNUDLAC) November 21, 2017
Recovery costs surpass $5billion, according to the latest needs estimates. In some cases the impact is 3.5 times countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for example in the British Virgin Islands.The principal economic sectors of tourism and agriculture have been significantly affected, according to assessments made public during the conference, organized by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) working with sister UN agencies.
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“The magnitude of reconstruction will require significant levels of financing which we are unable to generate on our own. Countries are highly indebted, with limited access to financing due to their middle-income status,” said CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque. “The task of rebuilding is beyond us.”
“Countries in the Caribbean need support now to rebuild, and to take effective climate action. We need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods,” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.
Climate-vulnerable islands were decimated, like Barbuda, the smaller of the two-island state of Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica, with deep social, economic and environmental impacts. Other severely affected islands were Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis also suffered damage. Sint Maarten/St Martin as well as Cuba and the Dominican Republic were impacted, in addition to Puerto Rico.
“Climate change is not a theoretical question for the people of the Caribbean. You live this reality daily. Our sentiments and well wishes will not be enough. Our messages of solidarity alone will not do. Right now, it is time for us to act,” said President of General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák.
In Barbuda, damages surpass US$130 million with recovery needs of over $220 million, according to the latest post-Irma assessment. The tourism sector, which is crucial for Antigua and Barbuda’s economy, accounting for nearly 60 percent of GDP, was severely affected, bearing 76 percent of losses.
“Climate change recognizes no borders, size of country or religion of its people. All are involved and all are consumed; but the small, vulnerable, poor are the most affected,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda. “We Small Island Developing States will never achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless there’s funding for climate-resilient communities.”
In Dominica, Hurricane Maria decimated decades of development gains, impacting over 200 percent of the island state’s GDP. Poverty levels risk rising above 60 percent. Nearly 60 percent of damages relate to housing and transportation infrastructure, with recovery costs estimated at around US$1.3 billion.
“We have the goal of rebuilding Dominica as the world’s first climate-resilient country,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica. “It’s an existential matter for us; it’s the only way forward.”
Responding to the urgent needs, over US$1.35 billion were pledged by established partners and new ones, highlighting the importance of South South Cooperation—from the region and beyond. Estimated amounts: $702million from The Netherlands; $352 million from the European Union; $140 million from the World Bank; $ 78 million from Canada; $30million from China; $27 million from Mexico; $12 million from Italy; $4.3 million from the United States; $4 million from Japan; $1 million from Kuwait; $2 million from India; $1 million from Venezuela; $1.2 million from Belgium; $1 million from Chile; $500,000 from Denmark; $300,000 from Colombia; $250,000 from Haiti; US$ 250,000 from New Zealand; $200,000 from Brazil; $150,000 from Kazakhstan; $100,000 from Romania; $100,000 from Portugaland $20,000 from Serbia.
Moreover, the Inter-American Development Bank pledged U$1 billion in loans, Italy,$30 million in soft loans while Venezuela forgave $1 million in debt for a more resilient Caribbean.Contact informationIn New York: Carolina Azevedo, Regional Communications, UNDP Latin America and the Caribbean, Carolina.email@example.com,In Guyana/CARICOM: Kendol. Morgan, Communications Unit, CARICOM, firstname.lastname@example.org