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Caribbean should invest in Renewables, Says Energy Expert

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – If you can’t sell them abroad then keep bananas at home because they could be used to fuel your car, asserted an energy expert.

Instead of continuing to burn valuable money importing expensive fossil fuels, Caribbean states should look at investing in a number of developments in the area of renewable energy – such as sugar and bananas.

The appeal is coming from an international expert on sustainability and renewable energy, the Honourable Tom Roper.

In an interview following the First International Conference on the Environment and Sustainable Development held in the Dominican Republic, sponsored in part by Counterpart International and the Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx), Roper said that Caribbean states should closely follow ongoing investigations into the potential use of bananas for energy, being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a Government Research body in Australia.

“While this is still a research project which is probably still a couple years before becoming viable, it was a development Caribbean banana producing states needed to watch carefully,” Roper, a former Australia Cabinet Minister, said.

He said Caribbean states should also turn their attention to other similar developments where a country like Mauritius was using sugarcane for a large part of their energy generation, while in the Pacific region coconut oil was being added to diesel to make it more efficient.

Roper said that there were a lot of technologies currently available which this part of the world was not cashing in on, nor taking advantage of available funding.

“There appears to be few if any engineers or financiers who know much about these forms of energy and (who are) capable of making good proposals readily available, and it’s those countries that have the expertise available that are obtaining funds for the projects, such as Brazil which is receiving more than anyone else,” he noted.

Based on this finding Roper said that he has challenged the World Bank to provide funds for the Small Island Developing States to allow them to acquire the skills to prepare and present proposals. “If this is not done and done quickly, we can very well see the Brazils, Chilies, Argentinas, Indias and Chinas getting all the funds and the 40 (small) island developing states getting nothing. So it’s a real challenge not just for individual governments of the Caribbean but one for a group like the World Bank to provide assistance so there can be a level playing field in terms of access to carbon financing,” he said.

He said so far only six Caribbean states had started the process of accessing the Clean Development Mechanism Fund, which allows Western countries to purchase carbon credits from a developing country, as part of its contribution to reducing Global Warming. “But while they may have started the process, what they need to do is work with the utilities and investors to access more of these projects,” he said. The six states that have set up “designated national authorities”, the precondition for submitting projects, are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Roper said that Jamaica has made the most significant strides having two major projects underway related to the area of emission reductions.

Delegates from across the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Pacific, the United States and Europe explored the theme “Environment: Our Partner in Development” during the three-day parley staged by The International Center for Environmental and Sustainable Development Studies (CIEMADeS) in collaboration with Counterpart International, the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) and The National Geographic Society.

The talks were also coordinated by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE), which was set up by the nation’s president Dr. Leonel Fern√°ndez, Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico and the Universit√© Quisqueya from Haiti.

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