CARICOM SIDS Must Further Intensify Drive Towards Energy Security – COTED Chair
A Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy was held on Thursday 20 April 2023.
The Hon. Stephenson King, Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Transport, Physical Development and Urban Renewal of Saint Lucia, chaired the half-day meeting.
The Meeting focused on matters including energy security, electric mobility, the work of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) – a Community Institution – and strengthening regulatory frameworks in the Caribbean.
In remarks at the opening, Minister King spoke of the need for intensification of the drive towards renewable energy and energy efficiency, and ultimately Energy Security.
“Our regional energy security is at the centre of our discussions which can only be achieved through focused Energy Transition. Historically we have seen transition from wood to coal in the 19th century, and coal to oil in the 20th century. The Caribbean region is one that is vulnerable to the environmental effects of climate change and although our transition may not cause significant drops in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it will most certainly build our resilience in energy-related matters” the Minister said.
Please read his remarks below:
I am delighted this morning to place my shoulder to the wheel of this 107th Special Ministerial meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy.
Before proceeding any further, permit me this opportunity to thank and commend you; officials from the CARICOM Secretariat and Member States, for the preparatory work undertaken in the lead-up to today’s meeting. Your effort; the heavy lifting, is worthy, and I am confident that it will pay dividends in our pursuit of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
Without any doubt, Energy is the lifeblood of any society. It cuts across all sectors and directly impacts economic competitiveness of industries locally, regionally and internationally. There is a need to find that equilibrium between the standard of living of our citizens and the cost that we pay for energy and its associated commodities. To attain this aspiration, it is essential that we develop our full potential of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, to transform our energy landscape to one that is climate resilient, sustainable, reliable and affordable, thus improving the quality of life of our people.
Presently, at this time in the global environment, with the uncertainties that the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict presents to us and the repercussions already placed at our doorsteps, with volatile and spiralling global oil prices, we, as CARICOM SIDS, must further intensify our drive towards Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and ultimately Energy Security.
However, the attainment of these milestones can only happen if we in CARICOM are resilient collectively; not separately, for it is our human capacity that will define our resilience.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary at this critical juncture to understand and appreciate the need for harmonious policies as a region, if we are to survive those exogenous factors which are more frequent, diversified and volatile, thus challenging our future well-being and survival as a people.
Our regional energy security is at the centre of our discussions which can only be achieved through focused Energy Transition. Historically we have seen transition from wood to coal in the 19th century, and coal to oil in the 20th century. The Caribbean region is one that is vulnerable to the environmental effects of climate change and although our transition may not cause significant drops in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, it will most certainly build our resilience in energy-related matters.
We as CARICOM Member States have been negotiating for our lives in the climate race, advocating that we; the World, need to maintain temperature increases below 1.5 degrees to stay alive, as temperature increases above pre-industrial levels will be detrimental to our region.
As CARICOM SIDS, our advocacy on the subject must be sustained and the decibel levels must be synthesised and intensified if we are to achieve this survival landmark.
I know we are very familiar with named hurricanes that have devastated our region at one time or another – destroyed our livelihoods, snatched lives and devastated infrastructure, thus paralysing our economies. We have all been affected and there are living memories of the trauma, the pain and the suffering. Literally, at this time we get scared – scared of the unknown and the known potential of the climate!!!
Fellow Ministers, when we speak Energy, we must think resilience, we must think security and we must be prepared to take on the Climate race. If we win the climate race, we can beat the economic challenge and the energy challenges collectively.
Colleagues, we are called and tasked with a great and solemn responsibility, to chart our region through the challenging and perilous times that may be ahead of us. Our decisions at this esteemed meeting of minds can be a catalyst for recovery from the still-healing, social and economic bruises of the past and the effects of COVID-19, all of which must serve as guides that should lead to continued growth, development and success in our region.
Also, of tremendous importance, is our scheduled discussion on our push for Electric Mobility. A strong transport electrification strategy is not a want but a need to an efficient transportation sector. The electrification and digitization of all processes and sectors of the economy is the element for sustainability and a model for the circular economy.
Efficiencies in energy consumption and use of raw material can influence energy security and economic growth. Global trends warn that we cannot continue to conduct “business-as-usual” – high consumers of energy and raw materials, as such folly will land us far behind the expected achievements of Small Island Developing States, with dwarfed and stagnant economies.
Our consensus here today will be of benefit to succeeding generations. Let us leave a clear path for continued growth, resilience, sustainability and Independence for our energy sector and generations to come.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that investments are required in:
- Renewable generation capacity,
- Smart electricity grids,
- Energy Efficiency,
- Electrification of end-use sectors; and
- Direct applications of Renewable Energies.
Our CARICOM Energy Policy approved on the 1st March 2013 indicates that the Task Force established would be deliberate in recommendations for the Regional Energy Policy which would address:
- Security of Energy Supplies,
- Energy pricing policy and the impacts on relative competitiveness in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)
- Purchasing and Transportation Arrangements.
Some of the member States represented here today are indeed more blessed with resources than others:
- Trinidad can boast of lower energy prices due to their reserves of oil and natural gas.
- Suriname has abundant hydro-electricity resources.
- Guyana has recently discovered a gold mine of oil.
- Jamaica is a pioneer wind energy.
- Dominica has a rich supply of Geothermal energy.
Those of us who are less fortunate may need to grab hold of the burning sun.
However, as diverse as our energy landscape may be, we all have our challenges and must strive for the best holistic remedy to soothe our energy needs.
I gather the bilateral negotiations we have with the international community are important to us, supporting our respective energy programmes among others, but permit me to appeal to all, that we should always view our discussions and negotiations through the regional lens – CARICOM as a region.
As a region, we have the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) that is charged with offering services in this regard and helping member states. Guided planning and implementation of our Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) will reap tangible benefits if we work together. If we work collectively, none of us will be left behind, no matter how small our resource base is. We can learn from each other and ensure that the region is one that is powerful, energy independent and unabated by the vagaries of global environment.
The CCREEE’s Pillar programmes, the CARICOM Energy Knowledge Hub, the Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan and the Project Preparation Facility have been supporting our energy transition.
In this regard, we need to increase our efforts working with our regional institutions like the CCREEE that we have established to leverage economies of scale, leveraging our regional human capacity, to accelerate our ambitions for the energy transition. We are not alone!
Our shared vision established the CCREEE and other similar regional institutions, so we need to participate in the regional Programmes designed for the region, engineered by the region, intended at leaving no one member behind in the energy race.
Our intention is to protect our lives, strengthen our economies, and secure our future. I don’t honestly think that’s asking for too much – I think it is a very reasonable ask.
Fellow Ministers, let us not get distracted, away from our mandate and mission; don’t get separated, don’t get divided and devoured. We are stronger together. It’s about our People and our partnership.
Our resilience depends on our collective wisdom and the bundling of our human capacity in our onward march towards Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Security.
Let us move forward; let’s walk the talk.
I look forward to an energetic, efficient and productive meeting, and in anticipation, I thank you all!!!