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Honourable Minister(s), distinguished guests, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen

It’s a real pleasure to be here at the launch of the third IDEAS Energy Innovation Contest – this time around, I’m delighted to say, with a strong focus on the Caribbean.

At the launch of a US$15m Climate & Clean Air Coalition yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that climate change “is one of the most serious and complex problems facing our world today”. Energy security is a big part of that problem. As Helen mentioned, energy demand in the Caribbean is expected to double in the next 20 years. With consumers already paying high prices for electricity, transport fuels and other forms of energy, this is unsustainable. In addition, improved resilience to climate change is particularly important in small islands and low lying coastal states, which are highly vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels and more volatile weather. Something has to be done, and Caribbean countries must move to a low carbon, climate change-resilient economy as quickly as possible.

Currently, the Caribbean has no financing facility dedicated exclusively to helping small and medium sized companies to develop innovative and viable renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions. Caribbean financial institutions tend to be risk averse and reluctant to finance new and innovative work. These types of projects also tend to have high upfront costs, which further reduces their appeal to financiers. That’s what the IDEAS competition is all about. The contest will select the best innovative renewable and sustainable energy projects from the Caribbean, which hopefully will lead to local benefits, jobs and carbon savings.  In the longer term, these projects also have the potential to scale up; making real changes to the way energy is produced and used in the Caribbean.

Small enterprises with the best ideas are not only provided with a grant of up to US$200,000,  but will also receive technical assistance, business advice and access to financiers and policy makers to help them grow their business. We are expecting projects chosen to show that they can generate a positive rate of return on the investment we make, in benefits like carbon savings and jobs created.

Successful ventures are also expected to create a demonstration effect, generate demand and over time contribute to the development of local markets and sustainable supplies of renewable energy.

The intervention will contribute to the UK’s vision of ‘working with businesses to open new markets, extend access to financial services, and stimulate new markets while simultaneously tackling climate change’. We also hope that it will contribute to the wider body of knowledge on low carbon development because collectively we need to build a more robust evidence base on this; we need to prove the technologies work; and we need to demonstrate low carbon development in practice in traditionally ‘high carbon’ sectors like the transport and building sectors.

The British Government has prioritised action on climate change – we have committed to cut our emissions by 80% by 2050. We have also shown the strongest of leadership on finance. Our commitment to spend 0.7% of national income as official development assistance by 2013, the first major economy to meet that UN target, has enabled us to create an unprecedented £2.9 billion UK International Climate Fund that will enable us to meet our Fast Start pledge, and ramp up our funding up to 2015.  Low carbon, climate resilient growth is one of the three priorities for this fund.

So what does this mean for the Caribbean? Climate change and risk reduction is a central part of the UK’s £75m development programme in the Caribbean.  Our Department for International Development will spend at least £22m between 2011 and 2015 on practical, tangible sectoral and community based interventions, such as:.

–      the Implementation Plan for the Caribbean’s vision of Climate Resilient Development

–      the support of 160 particularly vulnerable communities to cope better with the risks of climate change

–      affordable hazard insurance to protect the incomes of 18,000 of the poorest families and 50,000 small farm workers when disasters do strike

–      support for better national risk reduction and adaptation – including safer buildings, improved water management and supplies and early warning systems.

–      innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

There will also be contributions on top of that, for example our support to global and multilateral funds and programmes that benefit the region, like the Climate Development Knowledge Network, Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience, the Global Environmental Facility, and the European Union’s programmes.

I hope this launch event, and of course the contest itself, stimulates discussion and debate, encourages others to participate and, my biggest hope, that it acts as the catalyst for some real action.  As the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, recently said:

‘We must get on with it and not be paralysed into inaction on the ground. History has shown us that whenever there’s an industrial revolution, it is always those who are prepared to embrace changes who win through. It’s time that all of us – governments, civil society, private sector and individuals – put our shoulders to the wheel and got on with the job. Only then can we secure a future for this planet and a better, safer and more prosperous life for all who live on it’.

Thank you.

Category/ies:Regional News, Regional Speeches, St Lucia Speeches.
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