BRIDGETOWN – The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten the Honorable William Marlin, accompanied by the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Ms. Khalilah Peters and the Policy Advisor for Donor Coordination from the Department of Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ms. Olivia Lake attended the two day High Level EU- Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference held on October 10th – 11th in Bridgetown Barbados.
This conference was primarily focused on CARICOM/CARIFORUM and EU relations however both the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) as well as the French Overseas Regions (ORs) were invited to partake in this conference. The inclusion if all groupings in the region was to impress that energy supply vulnerability and fossil fuel dependence is not only a problem of the CARIFORUM countries but that of the entire Caribbean. This event was also a means to set the stage for wider regional cooperation specifically in the area of energy.
During the first day of the conference, in the capacity of Regional Authorizing Officer(RAO) for the Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories’ (OCTs) 11th EDF Regional Programme, the Honorable Prime Minister William Marlin participated as a special guest in a Ministerial panel discussion centered around the latest policy developments that support increased investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In his intervention, Prime Minister Marlin emphasized that Caribbean countries possess a great potential for alternative energy production and when unified as a block they could benefit from a true comparative advantage.
He also discouraged allowing outside investors the advantage of pitting countries against each other for their own profitable gains, drawing from examples the region experienced with the cruise industry. Alternatively, he suggested that all Caribbean countries should make a concerted effort to find ways to overcome the energy challenges in the region by tapping into the wealth of specifically geothermal energy resources. He further proposed the creation of the financial mechanisms to construct the infrastructure necessary to feasibly supply the entire region and beyond. Support of these proposals by Prime Minister Marlin was resonated by other sitting and past Prime Ministers as well as Energy/ Infrastructure Ministers in the interventions that followed.
The 11th EDF Caribbean Regional Programme will also aim to dedicate a significant portion of the € 40 million envelope to Sustainable Energy increase in the Caribbean OCTs. The programming process is still ongoing with as goal to sign the financing agreement near the middle of next year. In the spirit of wider regional cooperation and in the understanding of the related climate change issues that will affect all Small Island Developing States, the Caribbean OCTs have agreed to explore options to blend the funds of the programmes in the area of Knowledge Development.
As such, this conference provided an unparalleled opportunity to not only engage with regional partners, but moreover to identify the most effective areas for cooperation. Sustainable energy companies from around the world also attended this event as speakers and participants, but also with their exhibitions in a parallel Business Opportunities Forum. This was an extra advantage of the conference as there was the possibility of engaging with existing companies for both access to the technology and possible investments.
Key outcomes of the conference were the signing of the “Joint Declaration on Sustainable Energy between the European Union, European Investment Bank and CARIFORUM on reinforced cooperation in the field of sustainable energy”. Further, five support programs in the renewable energy sector for the region, totaling 54 million EUROS were also signed during this conference. These agreements are evidence of the European Union’s commitment in supporting Caribbean countries in meeting their obligations stipulated in Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.