Albert Ramdin, the Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General, today warned that urgent and concerted action must be taken to prevent energy uncertainty from reversing the Caribbean region’s march toward a bright, prosperous future. He said to achieve energy security and sustainability, government, the private sector and civil society at large must “pool resources; develop synergies; and work together to support the needs of the Caribbean in this emerging sector.”
Political will at the highest level, decisive public and private sector leadership are also vital to making the right choices and to allocating the required human and financial resources, Ambassador Ramdin told the participants at the Caribbean Regional Sustainable Energy High Level Seminar, held at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Topics covered included the energy crisis, its effect on the Caribbean Region and the importance for sustainable energy Caribbean regional program; Implementation of the Caribbean Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Bio-energy Action Program (CREBAP); Addressing the Challenges to Sustainable Energy Development in the Caribbean; and Bridging the Countries’ and Donors’ Gaps and the expected results of CREBAP. The seminar on sustainable energy also featured a roundtable with donors and executing agencies.
Participants at the seminar included the Minister of Environment of the Bahamas, Earl Deveaux; Inter-American Development Bank Representative in the Bahamas, Oscar Spencer; representatives from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); the OAS Representative in the Bahamas, Juliet Phillip; and members of the diplomatic corps, regional and international organizations, and the local, regional and international business community.
“Together, we can find solutions that will pave the way for energy security and sustainability in the Caribbean: one that does not create hazards to human health and the environment,” Ramdin added, stressing that energy security and sustainability must complement the region’s food security efforts and address the need for accelerated human resource development. Sustainable energy must also be “supported by sound research and development capabilities,” he added. The approach to the Caribbean region’s common challenges in sustainable energy has lasting implications for the region’s economic and social development and stability, Ramdin emphasized.
In his keynote presentation, Ambassador Ramdin praised the collaboration involving the OAS Department of Sustainable Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, IICA, and the United States Department of State in orchestrating this seminar. He cited the OAS’ involvement in vital programs over the past decade, and underscored its assistance in building the Member States’ capacity to develop a diversified and sustainable energy portfolio. He said the OAS is committed to supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and bio-energy in the Caribbean: “This commitment should be placed in the context of the emergence of a New Sustainable Energy Order in our Hemisphere and the need to design a new development paradigm in the Hemisphere—one with less poverty, greater prosperity, greater social equity and a cleaner environment for all.”
On regional energy initiatives, the Assistant Secretary General pointed to OAS collaboration with the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII) to develop and implement sustainable energy policies. He announced that additional funds had been negotiated in order to extend the GSEII program, which will enable inclusion of The Bahamas and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries. He identified the historic geothermal exploration on the island of Nevis as example of a huge potential for renewable energy in the region.
Energy efficiency is also underscored in Ramdin’s address as needing to be placed “at the front and centre of the policy debate in our region.” Forward-looking energy policies must be accompanied by a consideration of the region’s endowment of renewable energy resources and the potential for energy efficiency as an integral part of the objective of reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.
Turning to climate change, Assistant Secretary General Ramdin stressed that the current rate of carbon dioxide emissions is unsustainable. Should current emissions continue, “by mid-century, climate change may reduce the region’s water resources to the point where they might be severely strained to meet demand during low-rainfall periods,” he warned, adding that it is “clearly unsustainable” for the region to continue depending on fossil fuels for 93% of its energy needs.
Ramdin also noted that the Nassau seminar holds vital importance in developing a successful energy strategy for the Caribbean region that will benefit current and future generations. “Soaring petroleum prices, combined with the region’s high dependence on imported fuels, are taking a huge toll on the region’s fragile economies,” he recalled. “There is no doubt that the situation could have far-reaching social, economic, financial and— I may add—political consequences if the issue of energy security is not addressed swiftly and decisively by the region’s leaders. It is clear that the time for concrete action with achievable targets is now,” the OAS Assistant Secretary General stated.