Caricom Deputy Secretary-General Manorma Soeknandan says that despite the progress that has already been made the region has to urgently develop its energy resources.
She was speaking at the Fifty-Fourth Special Meeting of the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Energy earlier this month.
She said that while many welcome the relief that the lowering of oil prices, which fell sharply from US$106 per barrel in June 2014 to around US$42 per barrel in January 2015 brought, prices had gained about 20% since, reaching almost US$50.
“The “relatively low” price of oil that has been experienced recently must not, therefore, distract us from our efforts, but rather strengthen our resolve to pursue the development of our indigenous energy resources,” she said, according to a press statement from the Caricom Secretariat. “This most recent global oil trend is an indication of the increasing oil price volatility and the increasing uncertainty of the forecasting environment within which oil-fuelled economies like ours operate,” she said.
The deputy secretary-general also noted that the Region depending on imported oil and petroleum products for more than 90% of energy services makes it particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the international oil markets and takes away resources from important development priorities such as healthcare, education and adaptation to climate change. Further, she said, even the oil producing member states have acknowledged the need to also focus on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and referred to the Outcome Document of the recently held Caribbean Energy Summit on January 26 in Washington DC in which several commitments were re-emphasised.
COTED provides an opportunity for the Region to continue moving forward along the sustainable energy path. “An unfortunate reality is that as population levels and living standards across the Region rise, so too does the demand for electricity and other energy products, including transport fuels.
We must therefore attack our energy issues from the basis of developing reliable access to secure, affordable, clean and sustainable energy services,” Soeknandan said, adding that such services will allow the Region “to meet the basic needs of its growing populations, further sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts, bolster our respective urban economies and unlock economic opportunities in rural and remote areas.”
Further, she said, the Region must also minimise wasting energy resources and use them in a more effective and efficient way. Energy is about sustainable livelihoods and job creation alike which is why it has been identified as a cross-cutting area within the Strategic Plan 2015-2019 of the Caribbean Community for the building of its economic resilience.