Liz Thompson, an assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, has described the concept of a “green economy”, as a strategic economic priority which has become the latest buzz in Barbados and in international environment circles.
As more than 50 000 people from around the world make final preparations to travel to next month’s global environmental conference, Rio + 20, the current troubled financial times would place emphasis on the move towards the green economy.
Thompson who is an executive coordinator of the Brazil conference, told the BUSINESS AUTHORITY in New York that the linchpin of a green economy was a comprehensive switch to alternative energy sources in the various areas of Barbados’ economy.
“We have an abundance of renewable energy sources in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean and we should, for our energy and economic security, be relying on these sources rather than incurring billions of [US] dollars in debt” on fossil fuels, she said.
“In places like Barbados and Grenada we have indigenous solar water heating industries which present opportunities to investors in local businesses. They would be able to scale up and help to take those industries global.”
“It would also help us to move towards the use of more hybrid vehicles, some that use the abundance of natural gas in the Caribbean,” she argued.
Thompson who is a former minister of energy traced the approach to a green economy to a 2007 national energy policy which she presented to Parliament in Bridgetown and argued that private sector involvement was crucial to any successful transition from the heavy reliance on fossil fuels to other energy sources.
“The switch would reduce operating costs of private enterprises and generate greater profit margins,” she said. “Yes, it would mean investment in retrofitting but the returns would more than compensate for that initial investment over the long haul.”
She added that the Central Bank had estimated that the indigenous solar water heating sector pioneered by James Husbands had saved Barbados an estimated $500 million in fuel imports and expenditure over several decades.
“The International Energy Agency has identified Barbados as having the seventh highest per capita penetration of solar water heating in the world.
That’s a tremendous accolade for a country like ours,” she added.
“Transport is always a major component of your energy costs. We could transform our energy picture by insisting that eventually our commercial transport fleets could be driven by natural gas or other alternative fuels,” she said.