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Remarks – Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, S.G. (Ag.) Caricom at 35th Coted (Energy) Meeting, Guyana 24 March 2011

It gives me much pleasure to welcome you to this Thirty-Fifth Special Meting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which is devoted to Energy. This is indeed a special COTED as there has not been a Meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Ministers for a long time – our records show that this has not happened in more than two decades.

This meeting is particularly timely in view of the recent surge in oil prices to a peak of US$117 per barrel (the highest since 2008), following a steady upward trend over the last year, with this latest surge coming about in the wake of continuing unrest in the Middle East and North African Region and especially the turmoil in Libya.

This continuing price escalation has significant economic implications for all of our countries in the Community. The World Bank reported that, during the period of the record oil-price movement between 2007 to 2008, for every $10 upward movement in the price of oil, the worst hit CARICOM Member States experienced a negative impact of 1.5% of GDP to 2.3% of GDP. To put it another way, every $4.30 increase in the price of oil could reduce GDP in our countries by up to ONE percentage point.

There is no doubt that the cost and supply of energy are most urgent items on the global economic agenda and therefore on the agenda of CARICOM. Movements in oil prices are exacerbating the hike in food prices, through increased fertiliser, irrigation and transportation costs and even as we meet today, the impact of the earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants in Japan and the reported leaks of radioactive gases may be causing a re-thinking of world energy policy.

Nuclear energy, which is deemed a clean energy source given its role in reducing carbon emission through replacing other high emission energy sources, is targeted to provide eight per cent of the global energy supply mix over the next twenty five years. However, this policy will be brought under increasing scrutiny, in light of renewed fears about the safety and integrity of these operations when exposed to natural disasters. If the projected contribution from nuclear energy to the global energy supply mix is rolled back, then the question may be raised as to what will fill this void.

Natural Gas is considered to have an important role going forward especially in light of the abundant discoveries globally; it is also regarded as a clean energy source which can contribute to Climate Change mitigation.

It appears that renewable energy will have to play an even more important role than originally contemplated as we go forward. In fact, all CARICOM countries have already recognized the need for developing their renewable energy resources towards diversifying their energy matrix for improved energy security and for ensuring the production of cleaner energy for improved climate compatibility.

As indicated by Acting President, the Hon. Samuel Hinds, here in Guyana, as part of its Low Carbon Development Strategy, the government is pursuing the development of 150 Mega-watt Amalia Falls Hydropower plant. Barbados is well known for its solar water heating industry but its advancement towards a sustainable energy framework is also noteworthy. Jamaica has shown expansion in its wind and hydro capacity and has introduced bio-fuels for transportation. Belize, Suriname, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica derive a significant part of their energy supply from hydro power.

Other countries led by St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica are advancing their geothermal developments. Trinidad and Tobago is advancing its renewable energy policy and its range of incentives to promote renewable energy.

Here at the CARICOM Secretariat, we have launched a Greening Initiative which will, among other things, seek to improve efficiency through behaviour change, energy efficiency retrofits, as well as possible renewable energy generation. This Initiative will pick up momentum over the next few months.

Madame Chairn, Honourable Ministers, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I challenge us to see how we can leverage the energy sector advantages both fossil and renewable to advance our development, through such approaches as cross border integration of energy systems, encouraging participation in downstream energy sector industries and implementation of regional strategies to support capacity development in the sector.

We no longer have the luxury of just tinkering. We must find ways as individual Member States and collectively as a Community, to develop concrete and effective strategies that will change the landscape towards a diversified energy matrix. We must significantly improve efficiency of use and increase the contribution from renewable energy.

In that regard the establishment of a CARICOM Energy Policy will be instrumental. It is envisioned that this Policy will balance carefully the interest of all Member States to ensure the overall good of all. As you are aware, the advancing of the CARICOM Energy Policy towards finalization is a significant agenda item for this Meeting. The draft Policy was first submitted to the Conference of Heads of Government in 2007 which mandated that some areas be addressed and be brought back to a Special COTED on Energy. This is that COTED and although it has taken four years, it is hoped that after this Meeting a clear path can be established for expedited finalization of this policy.

Finally, I wish to thank our development partners who are active in the energy sector of the Region, especially in the area of sustainable energy development. In this regard, we recognize the role of the Government of Germany through the GIZ especially in support for Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme which was implemented together with the UNDP and which has been a watershed renewable energy programme and has also stimulated many of the sustainable energy developments now taking place. We note with thanks, their part sponsorship of this Meeting. We further thank the Government of Germany for its indicated support in the amount of 4.5 Million Euros for Sustainable energy strategy implementation within all of our Member States through the CARICOM Energy Programme.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) apart from providing some sponsorship for the hosting of this Meeting, has provided significant grant support for the Secretariat’s Energy Programme, in funding important studies and supporting development of the regional strategy. Other partners such as the European Union have been also supportive with projects such as Caribbean Capacity Support (CRECS) Project.

Honourable Acting President, Ministers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I once again welcome you to this Special COTED Meeting. I thank you.

Category/ies:Regional Speeches.
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