Use of alternative forms of energy at the UTT Energy Campus in Point Lisas include a Solar powered house and wind turbines.

The Seventh Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) hosted by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat and the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) which kicked off on Monday is seeking to address the most pressing sustainable energy challenges and opportunities facing the region.

The forum falls within the annual observance of Caricom energy month, which this year has as its theme, “From Dependence to Resilience: Fuelling our Recovery with Sustainable Energy.”

In a statement CCREEE said the event is being held after it was deferred last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and comes on the heels of the just-concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26).

Barbados’ Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds who gave the keynote address said sustainable development—whether alternative or renewable energy—must be at the forefront of transforming our regional economies. The minister further highlighted the challenges the region faces.

“Our geographical predisposition of being exposed to sudden and disastrous exogenous shocks…places us all on the front line in the fight against climate change. Equally significant is the fact that we’re also vulnerable to the wavering international financial commitments to the mitigation and adaptation strategies which the world must adopt,” Symmonds said

Barbados’ also committed to regional cooperation intended to wean the region away from an unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, through support for regional organisations.

Further recognising the role regional integration plays in advancing the sustainable energy agenda and building resilience, newly appointed Deputy Secretary General of Caricom Dr Armstrong Alexis noted that CSEF’s actualisation is a lesson in resilience.

“Disruptions serve as reminders of the challenges Caricom countries continue to face which often stymie progress and expose us to external shocks,” he said.

Alexis added that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the region’s vulnerability into sharp focus.

Ambassador of the European Union to Barbados, the OECS and Caricom, Malgorzata Wasilewska echoed sentiments from Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley that “it is enough talking; we need action now.” Noting that sustainable energy is a key element of the energy transition, Wasilewska said the EU also pledged its support.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados and the OECS, Lilian Chatterjee who also participated said it is recognised that Caribbean SIDS are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other external economic shocks, including fuel price variability.

“Reducing reliance on fossil fuels in the islands is therefore not just about reducing carbon emissions but also, about economic resilience,” Chatterjee added.