Strategic focus on energy, climate, disaster risk necessary – Energy Month launch hears

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The “vicious cycle” of severe climate impacts, high indebtedness and high fossil fuel import bills that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) faces, was on Monday highlighted to underscore the reality of the Region as it pursues sustainable energy.

In remarks at the launching of CARICOM Energy Month (CEM) at Quiskeya University in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, CARICOM Energy Programme Manager, Dr. Devon Gardner pointed to the  impact of the ferocious hurricanes on the energy sectors of CARICOM Member States and Associate Members .

‘The recent spate of hurricanes – Irma, Jose and Maria, which impacted the Caribbean between August and September – has reshaped this year’s Energy Month agenda. Concomitant with these extreme weather events was the extensive damage to the electric grids and other critical infrastructure within the countries, which impacted the availability of modern energy access, albeit temporarily, to citizens in Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, and other territories. This is one example of how our vulnerability to climate and disaster can retard advances that are made toward attainment of the global SDG’s: Goal 7 is related to an “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, he said, as he delivered remarks on behalf of the Secretary-General of CARICOM.

Noting that many CARICOM Member States were struggling to overhaul outdated power plants prior to the passage of the hurricanes, he highlighted the example of Dominica, which, pre-hurricane, was on the verge of reaching financial closure for the construction of a geothermal plant. That facility could have reduced the island’s dependency on fossil-based electricity by 50 per cent. Now, the government is faced with the priority of providing for its citizens who have been heavily impacted by the hurricane.

He said that the aim to build back better, the rallying call for resilient reconstruction in the hurricane-hit countries in CARICOM will require “significant attention to be placed on the vulnerabilities of our islands”.

“Our future lies in the reduction of future risk from extreme weather impacts, which requires adapting our economic, social and environmental systems to changes that are already unavoidable. A strategic focus on energy, climate and disaster risk as the central plank within our respective development models is needed, such that the efficient and cost‑effective production, delivery and use of renewable energy decouple our development from expensive fossil fuel use. In so‑doing, the energy system design can present an opportunity for enhancing the ability of our sectors (economic and social) to strategically address climate and disaster risks. The theme for CARICOM Energy Month, ‘RE-Thinking Energy: Shaping a Resilient Community’ is intended to convey this message”, Dr. Gardner said.

Energy Month is observed across the Region in November. The launch on Monday was in the form of a half-day mini-symposium followed by an exhibition.

CEM is a collaborative initiative to address the key energy issues and promoting cooperation based on the needs and common interest within the Community. It is a celebration of the significant strides that have been made within the Region in its transition to a sustainable energy pathway towards achieving long-term behavioural changes.

Several activities have been planned for the month including webinars, an art competition for youths, a regional energy kilo walk, and a youth essay competition.

This year, an award for an energy personality is being introduced. The award will recognised the contributions made by an individual to the sustainable energy development of the Region.

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