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Prof Agard: Market Tobago as carbon neutral economy with RE

Tobago has tremendous potential to become a leading eco-tourism destination that can pilot best practices for combating climate change says environmentalist, Prof John Agard, head, Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies (UWI).

Agard made the statement during the consultation on the draft National Climate Change policy for T&T at the Crowne Plaza hotel, Port-of-Spain. He said, “Tobago is in a unique position to Trinidad and we should maximise on that opportunity.” Agard said Tobago was already in a position to be marketed as a eco-tourism destination as the small twin-island state attracts a different kind of tourists. He said that due to Tobago’s considerable primary forested areas and its small population of about 50,000, Government can focus on transforming it into a carbon neutral economy.

Carbon neutral economy
“The main ridge in Tobago is known as the only pristine forest in the western hemisphere, so there is sufficient forestry to absorb the carbon emissions, once managed properly,” Agard said. He said once best practices are implemented to ensure emissions are not more than the forest can absorb, it can achieve a carbon-neutral economy. He said Tobago has already engaged in renewable energy initiatives to assist in the reduction of carbon emissions. Underscoring this view was Indra Haracksingh, lecturer in Department of Physics, UWI, who said Tobago is the ideal place for renewable energy practices. Also a member of T&T Renewable Energy Committee (REC), Haracksingh said pilot studies using solar water heaters in some of the Tobago’s guest houses were done. “No fancy technology was used, just the basics and it resulted in tremendous savings,” she said. Harackingh said hoteliers saw great savings in their electricity bills and that other feasibility studies were being done in other areas. In an earlier report, Energy Minister Conrad Enill said he appointed the REC to develop proposals for various sources of renewable energy.

Going solar
Enill said the commercial viability of the locally-made solar water heaters has been investigated and used to determine the efficiency of converting solar energy, which was inexhaustible and pollution-free. He said producing solar energy was 90 per cent cheaper than it was in the 1970s. “The energy would cost roughly between nine and 11 US cents per kilowatt,” Enill said. Speaking to Tobago hoteliers about the initiative, some of them indicated they were in full support of the a carbon neutral footprint, and the opportunities were attractive. Sherry Murray, sales/marketing manager, Coco Reef, said, “We would be willing to support the idea. We are definitely open to an eco-friendly environment.”

She said once the solar heaters cost less, it would help with business. Duane Kenny, general manager, Stone Haven Villas, said every hotel would support it, but it must be cost-effective and make financial sense. He said the hotels were still in survival mood due to the economic downturn, therefore, if part of the initiative was subsidised, they would welcome the initiative. Biswajit Bakshi, general manager, Grafton Beach Resort, said, “If it is national and logical, we would definitely support the idea.”


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