By Mark Simmonds
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our security and prosperity. So, now is the time for people around the world to work together, to protect our future and that of our children. And island nations, like those in the Caribbean, are already feeling the impact. Oil prices are rising -- pushing up electricity and food bills. You don’t need me to tell you that energy prices in the Caribbean are some of the highest in the world- and have doubled in the last five years.
Mark Simmonds MP is Minister of State in Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Temperatures are increasing, the ice caps are melting and rising sea levels are set to do irreparable damage to coastal areas - with economies across the Caribbean, where so many livelihoods are dependent on the marine environment, among the hardest hit.
The over dependence on fuel imports and its unsustainable financial and environmental costs are just some of the reasons why the UK -- itself an island and a proud maritime nation -- has turned its formidable scientific expertise towards developing renewable sources of energy: wave, tidal and wind. In fact, one in every four dollars invested in marine renewable energy research and development is now spent in the UK.
And we are making the most of the endless sources of sustainable energy that surround us: the UK now has more wave and tidal devices deployed in it waters than anywhere else in the world. We also have the largest offshore operational wind capacity -- producing more than 3.6 gigawatts of energy each year, enough to power nearly three million homes or an island 30 times the size of Barbados – and are on track to generate a fifth of our energy from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
Increasingly, and despite being famed for our inclement weather, solar panels are springing up on rooftops across the UK. Photovoltaics now generate 750MW of energy across the country, as well as providing heating and hot water for many homes. And we are keen to share this knowledge.
As with so many issues, we know that one solution is not going to work for the entire region. And Caribbean countries are already making advances in marine renewable energy sources that best suit them. In Jamaica the focus is on wind, hydro, and biofuels; in St Kitts and Nevis it is on wind; in Barbados -- solar water heating and photovoltaics are being developed, to name but a few. But the UK has a wealth of expertise and experience to share, that may help other countries find their own energy mix.
That is why, on 10-11 February, the High Commission in Bridgetown, jointly with the governments of Barbados and St Lucia, will host a two day seminar, bringing together British experts with key decision makers – government, financiers and industry representatives -- from 12 Caribbean nations to share our experience in developing and delivering commercial sources of renewable energy, to meet the experts, to hear about the pros and cons and to see how – in addition to providing tourism, fishing and shipping – the marine environment could literally power the Caribbean’s future.