Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has said the greatest potential for transforming Caribbean economies lies with reforming the region’s energy sector.
“Research and outreach must be tailored to ensure the elimination of fossil fuel imports and 100 per cent renewable energy use by 2030,” Mitchell told a forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Mitchell, the current chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping, told the forum that the current high price of fossil fuel imports which constitute close to 100 per cent of energy use in some Caribbean countries is largely responsible for inhibiting growth and development.
“In some countries of the region fossil fuel imports account for over seventy percent of export earnings. Coupled with debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios averaging in excess of 70 per cent, unemployment rates averaging in excess of 25 per cent and poverty rate averaging in excess of 30 percent, the region is mired in a viscous cycle of under development and poverty in some areas, with the attendant social consequences.
He said reform of the energy sector must also include the removal of growth inhibiting monopoly power production institutions and relations, and the introduction of pro-competitive power generation structures, aided by progressive and modern regulatory frameworks.
“The research and outreach planned must, at a minimum, examine, analyse and provide options, technologies and applications for a resilient Caribbean energy sector,” Mitchell said, adding that he would also argue that there should be no delay in investing in resilient low carbon infrastructure and human settlements and that doing so at this juncture will be less costly and more effective in the long run.
He said despite the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015 and the subsequent climate conferences, global greenhouse gases continue to rise.
“It is a well-established fact that while the Paris Agreement calls for a limit to global warming to well below two degree Celsius, above pre industrial levels, and to pursue efforts for a limit of 1.5 degree Celsius, that the current global trajectory is more likely to hit the 2.7 degree Celsius to three degree Celsius mark – an existential threat for Caribbean nations.”
Mitchell said a recent World Bank Report projected that should global average temperature rises by two degree Celsius, the number of severe hurricanes will increase by 40 per cent. The report also projected that based on current trends, global average temperature is more likely to rise by four degrees Celsius which will see an 80 percent increase in severe hurricanes,’ he said.
Mitchell said despite the overwhelming evidence of the thousands of scientists the world over, the voices of a few loud climate skeptics loom large on the development prospects of the region.
“The IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degree Celsius is due early next year but research done on the Caribbean categorically states that even at the 1.5 degree Celsius limit, the region will be severely impacted with exponentially damaging impacts at the 2.0 degree Celsius limit.
“The research indicated we are currently on track to hit the 1.5 degree Celsius mark in 2030 and that the Caribbean will be significantly warmer and drier. There will be increased intensity of rain events, higher sea levels and more intense hurricanes. This is what we are facing,” Mitchell told his audience.