It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this, the Fifty‑Fourth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) (Energy) and to the CARICOM Secretariat. This is the second Special Meeting of the COTED on Energy within the last twenty‑four months. When you met in March 2013, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, you took the decision to approve the CARICOM Energy Policy and the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C‑SERMS). Today, among the matters you meet to discuss is the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE). CCREEE might represent another critical milestone along the Region’s sustainable energy pathway if we make sure that it is sustainable when we look at its finances and human resources. It should not to depend on financial contributions from Member States. Donor funding usually does not take care of sustainability issues.
I have noted in the Report of the Officials that Ministers are being asked to endorse the Draft Financing Strategy 2015-2018, which covers the first three years. It’s about €10M. That is secured. The question is what next? Should we maybe look to locate CCREEE in another institution? Or can we deal with it in another way? We have to see if we can be innovative.
There is broad consensus that our Regional energy system, despite the progress already made, has to undergo significant additional changes in order to urgently meet the demands for modern, secure, reliable, efficient, cost‑effective energy services. While many welcome the relief that the lowering of oil prices, which fell sharply from US$ 106 per barrel in June 2014 to around US$ 42 per barrel in January 2015, prices have gained about 20% since Friday (reaching almost US$50 today). The “relatively low” price of oil that has been experienced recently must not, therefore, distract us from our efforts, but rather strengthen our resolve to pursue the development of our indigenous energy resources. This most recent global oil trend is an indication of the increasing oil price volatility and the increasing uncertainty of the forecasting environment within which oil‑fueled economies like ours operate.
The Region, depending on imported oil and petroleum products for more than 90% of energy services makes us, in particular, extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the international oil markets and takes away resources from important development priorities, such as healthcare, education and adaptation to climate change. Even our oil-producing Member States have acknowledged the need to also focus on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. I must also refer to the Outcome Document of the recently held Caribbean Energy Security Summit on 26 January in Washington DC, in which several commitments have been re-emphasised.
Climate change is being highlighted as the greatest threat to the sustainable development goals of Caribbean SIDS, which include all of our Member States. I am pleased, therefore, to see that there will be efforts to address some of the issues common to the energy and climate sectors in the Fifty‑Fifth Special COTED on Energy and Environment, tomorrow.
Today’s meeting, however, provides an opportunity for us to continue moving forward along the sustainable energy path. An unfortunate reality is that as population levels and living standards across the Region rise, so too does the demand for electricity and other energy products, including transport fuels. We must therefore attack our energy issues from the basis of developing reliable access to secure, affordable, clean and sustainable energy services. With such services, our countries will be able to meet the basic needs of our growing populations, further sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts, bolster our respective urban economies and unlock economic opportunities in rural and remote areas. We must also minimize wasting energy resources and use them in a more effective and efficient way.
Energy is about sustainable livelihoods and job creation alike. That is why energy has been identified as a cross‑cutting area within the Strategic Plan [2015‑2019] of the Caribbean Community for the building of our economic resilience. Our Heads of Government had already mandated the Commission on the Economy to give priority to Energy on its Agenda for the achievement of growth and development.
When you last met in March 2013, the price of oil was US$ 113 per barrel. So, we do see a decline. But as I have mentioned before, a lot needs to be done and we have to ensure that we do not encounter the same type of problems we have been encountering in the past few years, because often, what happens, is that when oil prices begin to fall, people take a slower pace in developing things and everything comes to a halt. I do not think we should be doing that. I think that we should use this opportunity to continue on steadfastly and try again not to fall into the same developments that we have encountered.
Having said that, I am looking forward to the deliberations and outcomes of this Meeting.
I thank you.