UN Special Representative calls for united regional action on energy

Special Representative for the UN Secretary-General on Sustainable Energy for All, Rachel Kyte has challenged Caribbean governments to pool their efforts to tackle the issues contributing to climate change, and at the same time tap the growing global business interest in renewable energy.

Delivering the annual William G. Demas Memorial Lecture in Montego Bay, Jamaica on May 17, Ms. Kyte said, to this end, public policy that encourages more investment in the sector must be treated with high priority and urgency.

She noted that energy is the dominant contributor to climate change; accounting for around 60 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. As such, public policy should address not just the basic enabling environment that will attract investors, but also the specific management and governance of utilities and other entities in the energy system, she said.

While noting that a number of initiatives had already been undertaken across the Caribbean in solar energy, wind farm technology and the use of geothermal energy, Ms. Kyte identified some key issues to be addressed such as: management of institutions, cost of capital and incoherent policy signals.

“While many believe they benefit from energy systems, today – those systems struggle to be reliable, affordable and sustainable. I say to the leaders: Many, many more people could benefit from the new energy future you need and your people want,” she said.

Ms. Kyte suggested that parties should come together to agree how borrowing can occur to spur the investment in the infrastructure this Region needs.

“Regional agreements and approaches will have to take place alongside the innovation we see in many island nations including Grenada and Aruba. I am here to tell you that there is real alignment between investors and public funds, with a plunging price of clean technology that must be seized by this region,” Ms. Kyte said.

She noted that like others in the multilateral development finance community, CDB had an essential role to play. Its priorities, Ms. Kyte suggested, should be oriented to those of its members as expressed through the Sustainability Development Goals in the context of recent meeting in Paris.

 “The region cannot wait for others to lead the way – it has to lead its own way – and that includes CDB,” she said.

While acknowledging that public funds will remain scarce given the enormity of the challenge, Ms. Kyte pointed to options that were available, including a specific role for the CDB.

Pooling capital with among others, the IADB and the WBG will help. The priority should be on the large projects needed to put in place the infrastructure that centralized and decentralized energy systems will need. Together with Caricom, the regional bodies must focus on underpinning the regional pieces of the puzzle ad convening others, from bilateral and philanthropic to private investment in the pieces of the puzzle, which are national and local.

Where management capacity is inadequate, CDB could help attract that capacity and even house it, she said. Given the ravages of climate change, the region will need to demand in very precise terms what it needs from the world, as parts of its regional drive to free itself from expensive, unreliable dirty power, Ms. Kyte noted in the lecture.

Many partners are already in place, she added, working to support the Region to achieve that vision.

“We need to adopt an ‘energy efficiency first’ approach. While we work on the centralized and decentralized energy generation you need – ensuring efficiency in buildings, appliances and transport will cut fuel costs now and in the future, improve quality of air in the towns, bring out the best of the tourism industry, create jobs and save funds to the treasury. This means setting standards and enforcing them. Be informed. Look at what is already going on in the region and what investors are already prepared to do,” she concluded.

Download the full transcript of the speech