The Caribbean must become a clean energy producer, supplier

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn concluded last week.   And although the United States decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it sent representatives to the conference.  The representatives’ goal, it seemed, was to wreck the climate conference negotiations.

The US envoys presented a platform of “big coal and big cuclear”, and informed the conference that cutting emissions was a US priority, but energy security, and economic prosperity were higher priorities and that: “the president has a responsibility to protect jobs and industry across the country.”

I guess the US believes that the world should now focus on “making America great again.”

Reports indicate that within the negotiating halls the United States continued to block progress on any finance discussions taking place. It blocked progress on finance for adaptation, it blocked progress in terms of the developed country commitment to deliver finance of the $100 billion that were committed by developed countries and it blocked progress on discussion even of finance in next year’s Climate Conference

So although the United States indicated that it was pulling out of the agreement, it participated but decided to play an obstructive and destructive role.  Readers of Caribbean Camera might recall that I wrote that the Paris Accord was a toothless tiger since all agreements were voluntary and had absolutely no punishment clauses.

This nonsensical agreement, is now coming back to haunt the conference.  It is precisely the voluntary nature of the agreement that allows the US, or any other country, to withdraw in order to protect its short-term interest, at the expense of the global interest.

The US and Trump administration might be the villain at this conference, but the reality is that all of the industrial countries are the villains.  They have elegantly devised a conference that allows the other countries to participate, but their participation has no real value.

In particular, the Least Developed Countries (LDC), who are most negatively impacted, have the illusion of participation.  The industrialized countries are the main producers of greenhouse gases, but island states will feel the full brunt of climate change impacts, particularly those resulting from sea level rise.

Interestingly, in Caribbean countries, the production of electricity by power companies consumes the largest amount of fossil fuels, therefore making them the greatest contributors to global warming and climate change in the Caribbean region.

This dilemma, being impacted by the emission of greenhouse gasses that they are emitting, and begging for assistance to alleviate the problems of climate change must be addressed by the Caribbean nations.

These nations need to realize that the countries that colonized them and enslaved them are never going to liberate them.  Caribbean nations have to understand that they are viewed entirely through the lenses of being consumers of services and products that these rich countries produce.

The fact that the US is blocking progress on the developed countries to deliver the $100 billion that was committed for the National Adaptation Programmes of Action is a clear indication that monies for assisting small nation states will not be available.

More important, the US under the Obama administration, had promised a significant amount of money toward that fund.  Trump’s withdrawal means that this money will not be available.

Ulric Trotz, deputy director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, remarked that Caribbean islands risk losing their entire way of life, unless they urgently strengthen defenses against a raft of future disasters.

He said, “you don’t even need to have a hurricane to get extensive damage. a tropical storm or depression, it comes and sits over a particular island or territory and it deposits rain; basically everything comes to a stop.”

He further expressed that these conditions will be exacerbated in the future.

Based on these projections Caribbean nations need to establish a Climate/Energy, Fund.  This fund should require all Caribbean nation states to contribute on a monthly basis, using a formula that is based on a percentage of their budget or some other formula.

This fund will be used to develop solar, wind and hydropower industries using citizens from all of the islands.  We have sun, wind, all year around, plus hurricanes and rivers.

We need to break away from our dependence on fossil fuel, which most of us do not have and focus on the things we have – solar, wind and rivers.  We need to start the production of solar cells and other solar related products.  We need to manufacture rotor and rotor blades for wind energy.  The rotor blades are mainly made of reinforced carbon-fiber plastics or glass fiber, we can manufacture these blades.  We need to harness our rivers, where practical, to generate energy.

Once we embark on this new agenda we will begin to transform the region.  Each island nation will be able to produce enough energy to propel most other industries that we wish to develop.

Fossil fuel is on its way out, no matter what the US or Trump administration desire.  We can become net suppliers of solar and wind energy once we commit to doing it.  Tourism, now considered vital for our economies, will cease to play such a critical role.

Most important, our people’s resource knowledge will be released.  We cannot and must not settle for being servants to visitors to the Caribbean.  We want tourism, but we must not be dependent and need tourism for our survival.

The US in particular, and to a lesser extent other rich countries, do not care that Climate Change has caused the islands to receive as much rainfall as we would normally receive in months in a few days.  Landslides, loss of life, loss of livelihoods are not their concern.

Some of you might be wondering why I believe they do not care.  Let’s look at the UN Climate “Least Developed Countries Work Program.”  This program was developed to build and strengthen the capacity of LDC’s to address adverse effects of Climate Change.

Some activities under this program included: training workshops, monitoring of progress, outreach, and mobilization of other organizations to support the LDCs.  If you are familiar with this verbiage you will realize that none of these activities solves the problem.

All these activities do is pay consultants from the rich developed countries to “train” people in the LDCs.  In addition, look at Puerto Rico and St Thomas, two US outposts.  They were devastated by hurricanes and the US has been slow to respond.  Other countries that were ravaged by hurricanes have been offered loans.

Finally, to quote Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Environment Minister, “the world just doesn’t have time to wait for the United States to decide what it’s doing, we’re moving on.”

Canada and Mexico and 15 US states have formed a new partnership and have pledged strong climate action that promises to focus on phasing out coal power and boosting clean power and transport.

McKenna also emphasized, “we are all in this together. The countries that move forward and realize there is a $30 trillion opportunity will be creating clean jobs and growing their economy.”

Caribbean nations must realize that mitigating disaster is never the concern of capitalists, especially if they do not see a return on their “investment.”  This opportunity to become a clean energy power supplier must not be squandered.

We will be able to produce jobs and grow our economy, gain economic and political independence, and most important, stop begging the folks who have absolutely no intention of seeing the Caribbean as a viable economic region.