UK’s top trade official on the Caribbean energy transition: ‘There is no time to waste’

From our Editorial Team

By: Darren Henry, UK Trade Envoy to the Commonwealth Caribbean

We are at a critical moment for the future of our planet. Temperatures are rising, storms are raging, crops are failing. It is vital that as we approach the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26 in Glasgow, we increase climate ambition around the world, to protect our planet, build more resilient economies and support those that are most vulnerable to global warming. The Caribbean is one of the most susceptible parts of the planet.  As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) there has been devastating effects of extreme weather and warming oceans, which are compounded by external economic shocks and the current global pandemic.

Darren Henry,UK Trade Envoy to the Commonwealth Caribbean

Without exception, and despite the challenges that the Caribbean faces, each nation is adapting to climate change and investing in renewable energy. I am pleased that the UK can support this transition through partnering with New Energy Events and sponsoring this virtual Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum.  While it is always good to meet face to face, this year’s virtual gathering is a positive and fitting demonstration of our ongoing willingness and capacity to engage remotely – and is aligned with our shared clean growth agenda. I commend everyone who has made this event possible despite the challenges.

It is clear that the rapidly falling costs of renewable energy highlights not only the environmental benefits but also the economic gains. In 2018, solar and wind power costs fell by 13% and soon it will be more cost effective for countries to install new renewable capacity than to continue to run with existing traditional energy options. Investment in renewables has the potential to create 42 million more jobs globally by 2050 and support economic growth. The Caribbean is well poised to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Investment in renewables has the potential to create 42 million more jobs globally by 2050 and support economic growth.”

The UK’s Department for International Trade will continue to work with Caribbean states and the private sector to promote opportunities that arise from and support climate adaptation. There is over £2.1BN of programmed projects funded by the Green Climate Fund, World Bank and IDB which will mobilise finance and support the region’s adaptation.  Partnerships between the UK, multilaterals and the Caribbean have already had a direct positive impact on climate resilient capabilities in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, UK firm Mott Macdonald worked with Dominica’s Ministry of Public Works and the Digital Economy, aided by funding from the UK-Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund, to redesign elements of a major road project. The new design incorporated several elements that assured the final road would be more resilient and strengthened against future storms and hurricanes.

In addition, we are partnering on initiatives that support local mitigation and adaptation priorities. In Jamaica, the DIT team have supported Green Crowd who, in partnership with Derillion Energy, have won a project to own, install and operate a new 45 megawatt floating Solar PV plant with grid energy storage and a grid frequency response system.  This ground-breaking $60M project demonstrates Jamaica’s quest to achieve 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.   The UK continues to support the development of regulatory frameworks in Caribbean Markets such as Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana and this in turn this has directly led to a UK consortia winning the bid to develop the largest solar plant in the region.  These examples help demonstrate the Caribbean’s commitment to tackling climate change, diversify its renewable energy mix – and highlight our joint ambition in protecting communities and livelihoods.

“There is over £2.1BN of programmed projects funded by the Green Climate Fund, World Bank and IDB which will mobilise finance and support the region’s adaptation.”

As President of COP26, the UK recognises the urgency with which we must all work together – this is a critical turning point for our planet and in particular for Small Island Developing States who are already living with the impact of global warming. That is why the UK is putting £50 million of international climate finance investment into a new Clean Energy Innovation Facility, which will accelerate innovative energy technologies such as energy storage in developing countries. We are also working with donors to improve access to finance for developing countries and partnering with SIDS to promote their strong morale voice that was crucial to securing the Paris Agreement – and will continue to be in order to keep ambition high and to turn it into real action. The UK will continue to invest both domestically and internationally in the climate change agenda. As we look to become a world leader in clean energy, we remain committed to enabling a pipeline of British expertise, knowledge and skills-transfer to support the Caribbean region to sustainably meet its own high ambitions for renewable energy solutions. There is no time to waste.