Climate Change and Energy Access
International Parliamentary Hearing for Caribbean Legislators
14th-15th March 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana
Sea-level rise could be devastating in Guyana as much of the coastline is already below sea level.
This hearing was the fourth in a series of nine that are taking place in African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) states between 2008 and 2010. Previous hearings have taken place in Kenya, Ghana and Tobago.
This hearing brought legislators from Caribbean countries together with experts in the fields of renewable energy, climate change and energy access for two days of in-depth discussion. The 17 legislators – from the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Guyana – heard expert presentations on solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy. The hearing was also attended by both Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana. The hearing was funded by the European Commission and the Swedish Development Agency (Sida) to encourage legislators to promote energy access for the poor while simultaneously addressing climate change.
For a full report of the hearing in pdf form please click here.
The session was opened by the Prime Minister of Guyana, Samuel Hinds, who set the scene by drawing the clear link between climate change and development. He said that Guyana, like other developing countries, is anxious to reach a higher level of development, but that the threat of climate change has now become very, very serious and cannot be ignored. Both of these problems must be addressed simultaneously.
|Prime Minister Samuel Hinds emphasised the link between climate change and development
Prime Minister Hinds pointed out that discussion on climate change takes place against a background of assumptions and world-views that need to be reassessed. The Earth’s resources are finite, and the world’s people are bound by a “common destiny”. In order to tackle climate change, we must accept these two truths and look for solutions that are fair and just.
Dr. Neville Trotz of the CARICOM Climate Change Center gave a striking presentation outlining the impacts climate change will have, and indeed is already having, on Caribbean states. He emphasised that changing weather patterns and sea level rise are of grave concern not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a developmental one. In this context he placed the need for an urgent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and hence the importance of renewable energy technologies.
Dr. Indra Haraksingh, physics lecturer at the University of the West Indies, presented the various renewable energy options available to Caribbean states and gave an overview of their possible applications. As well as resources that can be harnessed on a large scale, she showed how some powerful renewable energy technologies, like solar water heaters and solar cookers, can be deployed cheaply and quickly.
Kerry McDonald of West Indies Power Ltd. briefed legislators on the potential for geothermal power in the region, and showed them how West Indies Power ltd. is already harnessing this resource. Legislators were particularly excited by the power plants installed in Nevis, which by next year will supply 100% of electricity for St Kitts and Nevis, making it the least fossil fuel dependent country in the world. He also revealed a possible scenario for exporting geothermal power to neighbouring countries through undersea cables.
Dr. Trevor Byer, director of the Association of Caribbean Energy Specialists, expanded on the idea of energy trade by outlining the concept of regional energy clusters. He showed various possible energy-sharing projects using undersea HVDC cables, such as sharing hydro power from Guyana with Trinidad and Northern Brazil, or connecting all the islands in a line from Anguilla to Grenada. Dr. Byer also explored in some depth the need for innovative financing methods, and regulatory frameworks to encourage investment in renewable energy projects.
The Sunday session opened with a presentation by Joseph Williams, Programme Manager for Energy at CARICOM, who explained the organisation’s approach to promoting renewable energy and supporting renewable energy projects in the region. He emphasised the advantages of taking a regional approach, and of having the right policy framework to put renewable energy technologies on an equal footing with conventional energy sources.
Stefan Schurig of the World Future Council highlighted policy instruments that legislators can use to encourage private investment in renewable energy, focusing in particular on feed-in tariffs (FITs). He explained the core features of a successful FIT, and showed how Germany’s FIT has led to the development of a very strong renewable energy sector. He also suggested developing a task force made up of MPs, business people, experts and civil society to promote the use of renewable energy technologies in the Caribbean.
This was followed by a presentation by Kevin Deveaux of the United Nations Development Programme, who focused in on the kinds of procedural steps that parliamentarians could take on returning to their home countries. He explained how MPs can use their different roles – as legislators, overseers and representatives of the people – to leverage change within a Parliament. He offered to support any of the participants who needed assistance in drafting legislation or taking action after the hearing.
In the afternoon, the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, joined the group for an interactive discussion of obstacles and different approaches to promoting renewable energy. The President shared much of Guyana’s experience in attempting to adopt a low-carbon pathway, and stimulated a lively discussion among the participants.
Several key points were raised throughout the discussions. The legislators recognised a need to establish action plans and deadlines for what sort of renewable energies to develop and when. They also agreed that Caribbean countries should promote energy trade between countries to make use of renewable energy sources where they are most abundant. In addition, Caribbean countries should develop a united voice on international climate funding measures such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), to ensure that smaller countries get their fair share of funding. There was also a significant degree of interest in establishing FITs, as well as in undertaking small-scale energy projects, such as installing solar water heaters, and increasing the efficiency of government buildings. The importance of community-sensitisation to renewable energy issues was another key point recognised by the participants. Many legislators also emphasised the importance of continuing to share information after the hearing, with each other as well as with their colleagues in their home Parliaments.
For a full report of the hearing in pdf form please click here.
Legislators, experts and e-Parliament staff with President Bharrat Jagdeo at the Grand Coastal Inn in Georgetown, Guyana.
The e-Parliament would like to thank the European Union and the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) for funding this project.This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union and SIDA. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the e-Parliament and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.