Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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HomeOpinionCommentaryFuture of renewable energy, nature-based solutions in the Caribbean

Future of renewable energy, nature-based solutions in the Caribbean

By Racquel Moses

The end of the UN climate change summit (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh in November saw a final text that was much narrower in scope on fossil fuels than the previous year’s final agreement in Glasgow. While the text concentrated mostly on the phasing out of coal, it was less committal on the rollback of natural gas and oil – something pundits have associated with the high number of fossil fuel lobbyists present on-site in Egypt.

However, the shift at the UN’s flagship climate conference isn’t representative of what is happening on the ground globally, as Bloomberg NEF head of energy transitions, Luiza Demôro points out: “Renewables are now the default choice for most countries looking to add or even replace power-generating capacity. This is no longer due to mandates or subsidies, but simply because these technologies are more often the most cost-competitive.”

The global transition to renewable energy has firmly gripped the Caribbean, where resilience-building and adaptation projects have increasingly generated interest and funding over the past decade. As a whole, the Caribbean region has a range of resources at its disposal capable of providing large amounts of reliable renewable energy. From the Caribbean Single Energy Export Market focusing on green hydrogen production, Trinidad and Tobago’s recently announced major solar farms, or the myriad geothermal resources in the Eastern Caribbean in exploration progress in Dominica, Grenada, Nevis, St Kitts, St. Lucia, St Vincent and Montserrat with Guadeloupe’s already up and running – we have the ability to maximize our energy transition potential. In addition to other initiatives like the 30×30 or Blue/Green Economy, the Caribbean is becoming a hub for nature-based solutions (NbS).

Conservation leadership

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for nature and people is a global initiative launched by Costa Rica and France prior to COP26 in Glasgow last year, with the target of protecting 30 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030, the 30×30 goal has been championed by Caribbean nations. “Our Caribbean nations are only as strong as the environment they rely on, and the 30×30 goal allows our nations to inject much needed resilience into our natural ecosystems to ensure that our people, culture and economies have a fighting chance in responding to climate change,” explained UNFCCC executive secretary Simon Stiell and the Hon. Matthew Samuda, minister with responsibility for environment, water and climate change (Jamaica). With over 100 countries pledging their participation to the goal, the details on the implementation is set to be decided in December at the UN Biodiversity conference (CBD COP15) in Montreal.

Regardless of the outcomes, the Caribbean is already in a solid position to capitalize on NbS. “The Caribbean can play a key and leading role, and should be intentional about its leadership on the blue economy – marine protection and sustainability will be at the heart [of it],” said Dr Angus Friday, the Waitt Institute’s Director of Blue Economy during a Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA) Investor Forum. According to the UK Commonwealth, the worldwide ocean economy is valued at around $1.5 trillion USD per year, and is set to double by 2030 to $3 trillion.

Additionally, a recent study by the high-level panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy showed that every $1 invested in the sustainable ocean economy will return $5 over a 30-year period – numbers similar to the benefits associated with the 30×30 target. Karen McDonald Gayle of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund underscores it perfectly, “It’s important we understand the role that the Caribbean should play the Caribbean is a biodiversity hotspot, we are large ocean states and we should make sure that we are recognized for our blue economy and that it is actively used in what we are putting forward in our economic goals and strategies.”

The road to COP28

While ambition on reducing fossil fuels was low at an international policy level, the private sector and civil society are very much leading the charge on renewable energy. As noted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) NDC analysis, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) account for the majority share of countries that have committed to 100 percent renewables in their electricity mix by 2030. A major roadblock identified by Dr Colin Young, executive director, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is the limited financing available from public funds.

Climate finance has always been a key issue at COPs, and while COP27 yielded a consensus on loss & damage, there remains a variety of gaps to be addressed – gaps that can be filled through private means. The private sector has been keen on investing into resilience-building and adaptation projects like renewable energy, which provide a wide range of socio-economic benefits to the communities that implement them. This has become evident at successive CCSA Investor Forums, where approximately US$6 billion in projects have been featured – all of which are within the Caribbean. When considered alongside the successes we’ve seen in local projects, and the investments in Latin American hydrogen, renewable energy and NbS are working hand-in-hand to create a truly strong and sustainable Caribbean.

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