Clean energy is a winning issue and Trinidad and Tobago should claim and own it. The wider Caribbean has always had hurricanes due to its geographical bearing, but storm intensity has increased in recent decades due to climate change. Climate change science has clarified the problem with fossil fuel emissions, it has educated people whose lives are being adversely impacted by fossil fuels, and will lead to sustained investment for Caribbean economies, if weaponised. The world is at a tipping point, and in the next five years, Trinidad and Tobago will either be a climate winner or a climate loser. We should make climate change and clean energy a top priority. We should organise around it and talk about it at every opportunity. Elevating climate political intensity will force us to define, defend or oppose the core values involved. There is no magic message, no persuasive strategy that will otherwise obstruct an era of extreme weather events and pay for the subsequent losses and damages in the Caribbean.
Fossil fuels damage lives and will cause property loss in the Caribbean for hundreds of years as they circulate through the environment. Clean, renewable energy is by far the most intelligent choice, but it is not as profitable to Big Oil in the short term. Cleaner, safer energy alternatives should be utilised in Trinidad and Tobago, and old forms of energy should be used as sources of export and foreign exchange — a first best step to ensure energy independence and economic growth. The United Nations and the World Bank climate campaigns virtually have no effect on some governments and at least half of elite Big Oil’s climate opinion. Fossil fuel companies have played an enormous role in funding climate change denial and the material interests of an American majority party whose politicians are in lockstep with the good graces of fossil fuel donors.
Industries sometimes use duplicitous messaging to attack science to slow down solutions that are not in their financial best interests. So, while I am a climate campaigner for the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago (Energy Chamber) delivering a renewable energy message from a caucus where oil and gas issues dominate may seem pointless, at the Chamber, we have an influential climate committee that robustly supports green agendas, along with ideologically driven climate progressive fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP. Climate collaboration with BP and Shell is beginning to bear fruit for the Chamber’s climate programmes.
The Chamber is actually a haven for green agendas. Our Chamber leadership has deep experience with power systems, rebuilding and hardening of infrastructure, gasbased industries such as ammonia and methanol production and use of modern technology. It possesses a distinctive ability to incorporate lessons learned from successful rebuild efforts in other regions and natural disasters that we will adopt for the benefit of the entire Caribbean. Additionally, our renewable, low- emission loss and damage portfolios align with UN and World Bank recommendations for climate resiliency. As a result, the Chamber is uniquely positioned to lead and be a catalyst for climate policy advancement and climate finance in the Caribbean.
An increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations has resulted in an increase in global average temperature. This temperature change translates to physical impacts and monetised damages. Streams of monetised damages over time are converted into present value terms by discounting. The present value of damages reflects society’s willingness to trade value in the future for value today and is how we price the social cost of CO2 pollution. Carbon markets like the one we are deploying in Trinidad and Tobago will use this metric to place equity in sustainable projects throughout the Caribbean. The demand for these investments will come from big emitters within our carbon market operating boundary.
Climate solutions are not being moved by scientific messaging, so perhaps gravitating towards the odd position that the health of fossil fuel companies is the best way to protect our Caribbean climate interests is worthwhile. Everyone deserves access to refrigeration and lighting, but our climate cannot withstand burning additional fossil fuels for so many more people; it is important that renewables are effectively engaged. A Chamber carbon credit trading floor will coordinate and log the transactions between buyers (big emitters in developed countries) and offerors (Caribbean-based project developers). This is the ambition of the Chamber’s Caribbean Carbon Market (CCM) and how it will scale up climate- resilient projects in the region.
The CCM is designed to increase renewable energy deployment as rapidly as possible to lower the impact of fossil fuel emissions, vulnerability of centralised distribution systems in the Caribbean and constructing lowcarbon and resilient infrastructure to withstand future extreme weather events. The CCM creates innovative financing models such as debt-forresilience swap initiatives with the fossil fuel industry and works with the United Nations and the World Bank on policy reforms and investments that will enhance resilience. The CCM platform facilitates the large institutional and private investments required to drive economic growth, using capital from the United Nationsbacked carbon credits it generates by promotion and structure of climatefriendly projects in the Caribbean.