By Shermain Bique-Charles
Pleas from environmentally vulnerable nations like Antigua and Barbuda for financial help to transition to green energy have been raised before an international audience.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne brought the matter to the fore again during the recent Caribbean and Americas Regional Commonwealth Leaders’ Roundtable, hosted by the Prince of Wales.
“We recognise that there are opportunities going forward in terms of seizing the green recovery that will follow as we all seek to accelerate our transition into green energy. But transitioning into green energy is expensive,” Browne said.
Revenues from the country’s commodity trade and tourism industry collapsed in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the twin island nation struggling to meet its basic needs, let alone invest in sustainable development.
“If we are to achieve the commitments that we have given, obviously the funding is beyond our means and it would have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic,” Browne told the virtual meeting.
The prime minster said he is hoping that funds promised by the UK and the US will be trickled down to the smaller states of the Caribbean, adding, “if we are to benefit from a green recovery, then evidently we need funding”.
Cash-strapped governments like Antigua and Barbuda’s do not have the luxury of borrowing cheaply to finance a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Browne said, especially those characterised as middle and high-income countries.
“In fact, in the case of my own country, we have been utilising very scarce resources to transition into green energy applications. Within the last few years, we have spent about US$60 million dollars to acquire solar and wind applications.
“But within the last year, we have had to utilise funding that was committed to accelerate the transition into green energy applications, to fund Covid-19 expenses,” he explained.
He reiterated that the need for funding and access to funding is very important, raising his usual argument that a multi-dimensional vulnerability index needs to be established to ensure assistance to small states in the Caribbean, especially during a time of crisis.
The exploration of the blue economy is another area that Browne brought to the meeting’s attention.
“Even though we are small states we have a lot of ocean space, so we are relatively large ocean economies and that is an area in which we wish to transition and to get the necessary technical expertise so that we can explore the opportunities that are available in the blue economies,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda leader believes strongly that this is a critical area for the country, in order to achieve strong and sustained recovery.
“We also need foreign direct investment. We are hoping, too, that foreign direct investments could be redirected our way, because, the reality is, cash flows that are generated within our societies would have been significantly reduced, having been decimated by the effects of Covid,” he added.