One of the greatest injustices of pollution is that its consequences are not limited to those who produce it. The Caribbean is one of the least polluting regions in the world but it is also one of the most exposed to global warming due to the importance of the tourism sector within its economy.
Carlos Fuller, an expert from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, explains the consequences of the region’s dependence on petroleum and analyzes the potential of public policy for supporting renewable energy.
The Caribbean’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small because we have a small population, we are not very industrialized, and we don’t do a lot of agriculture, so we don’t emit a lot. However, mitigation is important for us because of the high cost of fuel and energy. Most of our islands depend on petroleum as a source of energy, and when oil prices were above US$100 per barrel, we were spending more than 60% of our foreign exchange on importing petroleum products into the Caribbean. In that respect, we really want to transition to renewable energy sources as we have considerable amounts of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy potential.
It has. Climate change is severely impacting our natural attractions, our tourist attractions. For example, we have a significant amount of erosion because of sea level rise, wave action, and storm surges, which is causing tremendous erosion and affecting our beaches. Our coral reefs, which are a big attraction, are also suffering a lot of bleaching which is impacting our fish stock. Those resources are being affected significantly. We do have significant protected areas; however, we need more resources to enforce the protection of these.
In some countries, [we’re] doing reasonably well on this front. In Belize, for example, we now have independent coal producers and we have transitioned to an increased use of hydro, solar, and biomass, so more than 50% of our domestic electricity supply is from renewable energy sources. However, on many of the islands, we need to create an enabling environment to allow renewable energy to penetrate the market. We are going to need a lot of assistance from the international community to put in the regulatory framework that will allow us to develop renewable energy in these places. We then need to attract potential investors to provide sources of renewable energy in the region. Of course, the Caribbean’s tourism is an important sector of the economy, which is one of the reasons we need to protect our reserves and natural parks. We are also trying to make our buildings more resilient to the effects of extreme weather. That is the focus of our work.
The Green Climate Fund is headquartered in South Korea and it has an independent board of management. However, various agencies can be accredited to access the fund directly. We have already applied for a project to preserve the barrier reef and another to promote biomass use in the Caribbean. So, we have two projects in the pipeline through the Green Climate Fund which are valued at around US$20 million.
We were very pleased with the outcome in Paris. The objectives that the Caribbean Community wanted were achieved: the limit for warming was set at 2°C; adaptation was considered along with mitigation; finance, technology transfer, and capacity building were included; and a compliance system was put in place. All the things that we wanted out of Paris, we achieved, and so we are very happy with that.
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