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Midway through May, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its latest report on the state of the global climate – like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) made available just weeks before, the conclusions were dire. “It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record”, stated WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas, “Our climate is changing before our eyes. Sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented”.

These consequences are set to impact island nations and coastal communities like ours disproportionately, we are already seeing these issues manifest themselves in the form of more frequent and powerful storm events and ecological collapse. Climate change is an everyday reality in the Caribbean. The warnings from the WMO and IPCC should serve as a rallying call to ramp up our efforts to adapt and mitigate the damage caused by climate change through effective resilience-building. This means continuing to develop the innovative local solutions our communities are bringing forth, and expanding on the opportunities that become available.

Collaboration is a Priority

Global temperatures this year are set to be 1.5 degrees Celsius above yearly averages – the first time this bar has been reached. The Paris Agreement sets out to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by 2100 – while reaching this level in 2022 is an outlier, it highlights how close we are to that tipping point. Strong climate action is needed now, and our collective Caribbean community only stands to benefit from collaboration between regional decision-makers. A working group on the Caribbean Single Energy Export Market was held during the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference 2022 which highlighted the transformational vision for the region capable of setting global standards, as well as exactly what the WMO report calls for.

The Caribbean Single Energy Export Market is a vision for the region which will see countries connect in a multipoint, multi-directional pipeline of renewable energy contributed by Caribbean nations. The potential to create green hydrogen from an amalgamation of renewable energy sources including geothermal, offshore and onshore solar and wind, creates the potential for a new export industry. This type or project would highlight the strengths of our region, and form a collaborative market that would serve as a blueprint for green hydrogen production globally – a sector that is considered essential in our decarbonization plans and thus has gained much attention in recent years as decision-makers seek to wean themselves from fossil fuels. 

Building a Better Future

The WMO’s report highlights that the window for concerted action is closing. Strong steps must be taken to rapidly decarbonize and provide future generations with opportunities to live in a world not ravaged by the impacts of climate change. The Caribbean has the capacity to cement its role as a global leader in sustainable development and climate resilience. Whether it be through the projects pursued at the T&T Energy Conference, at CARILEC or even COP27 – we must explore the opportunities available to us to collaborate and build the future we want for the Caribbean.

“Our Caribbean nations are only as strong as the environment they rely on,” note the Hon. Matthew Samuda, Minister with responsibility for Environment, Water and Climate Change, Government of Jamaica; and Hon. Simon Stiell, Ministry of Climate Resiliency, Government of Grenada, in an Op:Ed in March, “Our collective voice is still much too subdued. We gain more through one Caribbean battle cry.” These words from our elected leaders should be the rallying call to changemakers around the Caribbean, and in cases where policy has not yet caught up with the realities presented in the WMO or IPCC reports, we must push through and work together to build the future we want for our communities.

Working Through Roadblocks

The changing dynamics created by the climate crisis is affecting every facet of our daily lives. As such, the solutions needed to protect our communities must also be dynamic and adapt to the opportunities we are provided with. Projects like the Caribbean Single Energy Export Market gives the region a chance to build a resilient sustainable economy, and is just one example of Caribbean excellence through collaboration. We must work through roadblocks that could slow our progress and find innovative solutions to financing challenges, new technologies, and slow legislative processes.

When faced with a crisis like climate change, the solutions are clear: reducing fossil fuels in our transport and power generation industries, adopting new technologies and processes, and changing how we interact with the natural environment. However, while we can each do as much as we can ourselves, building bridges with other communities with similar challenges can ensure that our impact is magnified. The WMO report is clear: there must be more collaboration towards strong decarbonization and sustainability projects – and the Caribbean is in the perfect position to lead the charge.