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What Can a U.S.-Caribbean Energy Alliance Achieve?

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Haris launched the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030, or PACC 2030, at the Summit of the Americas, pictured above. // File Photo: @VP via Twitter. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris launched the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030, or PACC 2030, at the Summit of the Americas, pictured above. // File Photo: @VP via Twitter.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on June 9 launched the “U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030,” or “PACC 2030,” in an effort to increase cooperation and collaboration between the United States and Caribbean countries on climate adaptation and the strengthening of energy security. PACC 2030 also aims to build resilience for local economies and critical infrastructure at risk due to the climate crisis in the region. What mechanisms will PACC 2030 use to achieve its primary objectives of climate adaptation and energy security, and what role will the United States play in the partnership? How are Caribbean countries responding to the framework, and how could the partnership play out them? What energy and climate change frameworks exist in the Caribbean already, and what makes the new initiative different? What opportunities does the new initiative open for private-sector companies?

John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate: “Thanks to devastating messages from Mother Nature and dire warnings from every major scientific body, we know we are not currently on track to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. We do still have time to get on the right track and secure a healthier, cleaner, safer planet for all of us. Reaching our goals requires all of us—as governments, corporations, activists, investors and others—to do more and do it faster, especially in this decisive decade. In the Americas, that work will be supercharged by the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030). Thanks to President Biden and Vice President Harris and our friends and allies in the Caribbean and across the Americas, our region is all in on this effort. We know that the Caribbean is on the front lines of the climate crisis. That is why the president and the vice president are committed to elevating cooperation with Caribbean nations through PACC 2030 to enhance adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change. We are leading on ambition, with five new countries signing on to accelerate the clean energy transition through the Renewable Energy in Latin America and the Caribbean initiative, joining to work together to reach a collective target of 70 percent renewable energy in the region’s electricity sector by 2030. We’re mobilizing finance to support mitigation and adaptation, with the four regional development banks committed to invest $50 billion over the next five years and work together with U.S. development finance institutions to mobilize much more from the private sector and other sources. We’re protecting the global ocean, joining Chile and other Pacific nations in a new alliance to improve marine protected area management. Entrepreneurs and innovators are bringing new technologies to market. 118 nations are now working together to reduce methane emissions. On behalf of all of us who share this small planet and all who will follow up, it’s time to get the job done.”

R. Kirk Sherr, member of the Energy Advisor board and president of Clearview Strategy Group: “PACC 2030 is a new U.S. government plan to help Caribbean nations prepare for the global energy transition with two strategic objectives: 1.) enhancing energy security; and 2.) promoting climate adaptation and resilience. The four top-line PACC 2030 goals are assistance with access to development funding, facilitating clean energy investment, capacity building and deepening U.S. collaboration with the Caribbean. On the critical financing issues, PACC 30 assigns a leadership role to the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and to multilateral development banks (MDBs) already active in the region. PACC 2030 seeks to leverage many of the U.S. programs and offices already in place, along with MDBs and Caribbean institutions, while improving access to global climate funds. The energy transition brings myriad new opportunities and complexity to energy security planning. New technologies, financing mechanisms, processes, companies and distributed generation systems provide key tools not available or competitive in the recent past. Many of these tools are ideal to integrate smaller energy systems with island grids. Success for the PACC 2030 effort will depend largely on two major factors. First, will the DFC (or other U.S. institutions) be able to corral the disparate U.S., Caribbean and international players to concentrate on replicable, effective technologies and systems? Second, will the capacity building goal move fast enough for regional government decision-making to move at the necessary pace when dealing with these complex systems on top of the myriad stakeholder challenges already present in the Caribbean?”

Riyad Insanally, senior fellow at the Caribbean Initiative of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and former ambassador of Guyana to the United States: “It is hugely significant that, of the five initiatives announced at the Ninth Summit of the Americas, PACC 2030 is specific to the Caribbean, too often overlooked in hemispheric meetings. It has generally been welcomed in the region. In laying out the two strategic objectives and four pillars of action of the initiative, Vice President Harris showed that the administration has been listening to Caribbean governments and stakeholders who have been calling for new partnership frameworks on economic recovery, resilience, food security, climate adaptation, energy security and the transition to renewables. PACC 2030 has the potential not only to reshape U.S.-Caribbean relations but also to give impetus to regional efforts to advance their climate and energy agendas and to facilitate U.S.-Caribbean public-private partnerships. It is critical to help build capacity in individual countries and regionally, and establish investment facilitation teams to develop a pipeline of climate and clean energy projects in the Caribbean. Unlocking new financing mechanisms through the Development Finance Corporation and the multilateral development banks and global climate funds will also be important. The recognition of regional institutions’ role is key. The vice president’s list should be augmented by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center and the Caribbean Private Sector Organization and local American Chambers. Success will depend on how Caribbean governments work with these institutions to present a coherent strategy in U.S. negotiations, to take advantage of the opportunities presented.” 

Steven Debipersad, economist and lecturer at Anton de Kom University of Suriname: “The U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030) offers Caribbean nations improved access to funding in the fight against climate change in addition to investments in clean energy projects. To achieve these objectives, PACC 2030 will organize its activities and programs under four pillars: improving access to development financing, facilitating clean energy project development and investment, enhancing local capacity building and deepening collaboration with Caribbean partners. This approach recognizes that all countries in the region are vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events and require support to address these challenges. The Caribbean is on the front line of the climate crisis, with energy security being critical for the region’s transition toward clean reliable objectives. This includes enhancing the resilience of the region’s energy systems to both natural and man made shocks, from hurricanes to oil price spikes. Collaboration with existing initiatives such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum and the Regional Security System ought to be harmonized with new initiatives. The new partnership comes as Caribbean and Latin American nations are still recovering from the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several Caribbean leaders have addressed the need for collective action during the ninth Summit of the Americas. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley praised the partnership as a ‘real possibility of hope.’ The PACC 2030 initiative is widely seen as fresh commitments to—and integration of—climate adaptation and resilience and clean energy programs across the Caribbean region. How these initiatives will specifically benefit the local private sector will become more apparent with the implementation of PACC 2030.”

Cletus I. Springer, chairman of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) and former director of the OAS Department of Sustainable Development: “The early response of actors within the Caribbean to the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis (PACC) has been positive. In terms of focus, detail and ambition, the PACC improves on the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) which was launched by President Obama at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. Importantly, the PACC recognizes the value of working with Caribbean energy and climate change agencies. This is a sensible approach, as in addition to being intensely familiar with the challenges and opportunities associated with resilience building, these entities have well-designed plans in many of the thematic areas. Another heartwarming feature of the PACC is the intention to establish teams to build a pipeline of projects and to identify funding gaps in renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. Stimulating investment in clean energy in the Caribbean has stymied past cooperation initiatives because of scale issues. Overcoming this perennial challenge will require innovative thinking if the goals of the PACC are to be achieved. The Caribbean will have to organize itself to realize the benefits promised in the PACC. An effective regional coordinating mechanism will be needed with high-level political oversight. Options here include the creation of a prime ministerial sub-committee headed by the prime minister of Saint Lucia, who is the lead prime minister responsible for sustainable development and climate change. Additionally, the PACC should be converted into a strategy with clear and measurable objectives, outcomes and indicators of success.” 

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