Parliamentarians gather on climate change

Parliamentarians from across the Caribbean as well as authorities on Climate Change and alternative energy sources gathered yesterday at the Grand Coastal Inn Hotel for a seminar targeted to address the response of legislators to this key area.

The two-day conference is being held under the theme ‘Climate Change and Energy Access’, and has been organized by the international body e-Parliament.  The Denmark-based organization specializes in spreading useful legislative ideas and also facilitates the gathering of various legislators for forums such as these. The body is supported by the European Commission and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds opened the session yesterday morning and congratulated the body for arranging such a forum. He emphasized  that the issue of Climate Change was one which Guyana was deeply concerned about and consequently the country had “adopted a low carbon development path and had put forward a market model for evaluating the contribution of its forests for mitigating global, climate and other changes.”

Hinds told the gathering that “climate change eruditely expresses the fact that resources are limited and finite” and said that it raised questions about the allocation of these limited resources.

Executive Director of e-Parliament Jasper Grolin also addressed the gathering and he too pointed out that the effects of Climate Change were a major concern. He explained that the Caribbean region was a region that was vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change. He stated that the main objective of this conference was to encourage legislators to adopt policies that would reduce the impact of this phenomenon.

Grolin said that the Caribbean territories as well as other developing countries needed to consider alternative energy sources as opposed to fossil fuels and said that according to reports the region may want to consider investing in Geothermal Energy. Geothermal Energy is derived from heat from the earth.

He, however, pointed out that cost was an important factor when considering what alternative energy sources and emphasized that this was something that needed to be carefully assessed based on available resources.

Meanwhile, he also emphasized the dangers of CO 2 (carbon dioxide) emissions especially from burning fossil.  He said that this affected weather patterns and sea levels.  He said that this would impact climate change and will leave put poorer countries at risk. Grolin stated that the shortage of food is one of the possible negative consequences of climate change.

However, he said that adjustments will have to be made and these will have to be done by the more developed countries which have greatly contributed to the emissions of carbon dioxide.

After these presentations, a lively discussion ensued. Local MP Odinga Lumumba spoke with much conviction when he urged the leaders in the region to take advantage of the US President Barack Obama’s rise to power since many of his policies favoured some of these very ideas that were being discussed. Lumumba said that from his experience there has always been talk about pursuing renewable energy sources but said that this was always influenced by the prevailing politics of the day.

In response Bahamian MP Picewell Forbes, a member of the Opposition Progressive Liberal Party, called for the Caribbean leaders to be more proactive and assertive in addressing this issue. He said that the upcoming Summit of the Americas must be taken advantage of since the Caribbean nations have a chance to meaningfully engage the US President.

He said that this Summit should not be used as another “photo opportunity” but must be used as an opportunity to present “a real perspective”. Forbes said that some Caribbean leaders had to take the lead and opined that for too long the Caribbean had been reduced to begging the US for aid when more critical issues remained.

In response, Dr Ulric Trotz of the Caricom Climate Change Centre said that all Caribbean leaders had a responsibility in this regard. He said that for years, the Caribbean has been making strides in the technical aspects of addressing the whole issue of Climate Change but emphasized that the political backing was lacking. He commended President Bharrat Jagdeo for his recent initiatives in promoting issues relating to Climate Change in Poland and said that this had led to positive results.

Meanwhile Barbadian Senator Patrice Innis emphatically stated that generally the region was “very sluggard” when it came to addressing issues of climate change especially in pursuing renewable energy resources. She said historically, the Caribbean territories had a way of only reacting when things reached crises and suggested that it would be best if the various territories began to legislate various changes thereby forcing adherence to certain practices that would serve for the betterment of the various territories and region as a whole. She said that such decisions should be made since the Caribbean region was clearly at risk of being affected by the negative results of Climate Change.

Yesterday’s session would have included presentations on Climate Change and its impact on the Caribbean by Dr Trotz, Renewable Energy Options by Dr. Indra Haraksingh, Geothermal Energy in the Caribbean by Kerry McDonald, while Trevor Byer would have presented on Sub-Regional Clusters and Pathways to Regional Energy Integration in the Caribbean.

The Conference concludes today, with the highlight expected to be an interactive session with President Bharrat Jagdeo.

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