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The Green Island

25.05.22

With an impressive aim to become carbon neutral in the next few years, James Matthews spoke to Renatta Mohammed from Invest Barbados for an insight into how this aspiration will unfold

Barbados is more than just another pretty Caribbean Island with picture postcard scenery. The 166 square mile nation has set an impressive goal to eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels, becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and leading the Caribbean on a more sustainable development path.

That’s just eight years away and some may argue, the target is an ambitious one. For the people and government of Barbados, however, highly achievable aim, given the country’s track record in alternative energy and its determination to be the leading destination in the Caribbean to live, work and play.

Against the backdrop of an annual energy import bill of approximately $300 million (USD), the Government of Barbados is determined that this significant outflow will be better spent on the development of the Barbadian people.

Amongst other goals, the Barbados National Energy Policy aims, among other goals, to reach zero domestic consumption of fossil fuels, maximise local participation in the distribution of renewable energy, while democratising the generation and storage of this energy, and making Barbados the regional centre of excellence for renewable energy-research and development.

But long before it became trendy to ‘go green’, Barbadian scientists were building rudimentary water heaters powered by the sun. The 1970s oil crisis hit, and this sparked greater use of these solar devices. The Barbados Government also incentivised homeowners with tax rebates, increased impositions on gas and electric heaters, and the solar water sector took off.

Today, there are well over 60,000 installations in most homes and commercial accommodation on the island. Even more important than that, Barbados alone accounts for more than 60% of solar water heaters in the Caribbean and about 80% of manufacturing, according to a report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Barbados has also exhibited leadership when it comes to electric vehicles. Though it is among one of the smallest islands, it leads the English-speaking Caribbean in the switch from carbon emitting transportation. Over 500 electric vehicles are on its roads, and this does not include the recent purchase of almost 40 electric buses by the state-owned Transport Board.

Former Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources, Ian Gooding-Edghill explains: “The administration authorised a total spend of US$22.5 million to acquire electric buses, and to ensure the charging infrastructure was in place”

The progressive HOPE housing project, which is backed by the Barbados government, provides hundreds of affordable homes to low and middle-income citizens in which the cost of the land will be funded by revenue raised from the sale of energy generated from photovoltaic on the roofs.

Determined to operate an economy that is sustainable for its 280,000 inhabitants, successive governments have designed development paths that incorporate aspirations that are tied to environmental protection and preservation.

And so, when Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley speaks passionately on global platforms such as the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, her speeches are not mere platitudes or soundbites. They represent real concern for the needs of small island developing states and commitments by Barbados to be a world leader that centres environmental preservation in its development plans.

Stressing the urgency to unlock the financing needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5º, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement, Prime Minister Mottley strongly urged world leaders at COP 26 that failure to do so stating: “is measured in lives and livelihoods in our community”.

Barbados is working with development financing partners such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank, to boost the ‘Smart Fund’ it created in 2011 to help it reach the 2030 zero carbon goal.

The Barbados Sustainable Energy Investment Programme was recently boosted with a US$30 million loan from the IDB and US$15 million in grant from the European Union.

The newest version of the Smart Fund enables the expansion of Government’s own renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency, provides clean energy finance for small and medium-sized enterprises and expands government’s electric vehicle fleet and charging infrastructure.

There are several good reasons why Barbados is in the top tier of Caribbean countries on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals index. Its progressive policies and active state support for energy efficiency, environmental preservation and balanced development, have combined to make this country an international standout.

www.investbarbados.org

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