Cayman’s carbon footprint triples

Cayman is producing almost triple the amount of carbon dioxide emissions than it did nearly 20 years, according to data revealed for the first time at a climate change workshop this week.

The vast majority of carbon dioxide produced on Island comes from the production of electricity and the desalination of water, with each accounting for about a third of the 925 kilotonnes of CO² in 2007.

James Burt from the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, was the key speaker at the workshop hosted by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

‘What the inventory is showing for the Cayman Islands is quite a significant increase in emissions since 1990 and quite a significant increase in just the last few years, particularly from the power station and desalination plant,’ Mr. Burt said.

‘These are trends that are being observed in many countries, not just the Cayman Islands.’

The DoE collects data from Cayman’s Economics and Statistics Office on energy usage and production in Cayman and passes that along to AEA Technologies, the consultancy company that compiles an annual inventory on the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Any emission reductions recorded in Cayman are included in the UK’s emissions inventory. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK is legally bound to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent by 2012, but Cayman has no emissions reduction target.

Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie of the DoE’s Sustainable Development Unit, said she hoped Cayman would adopt its own national energy policy that could set targets for different sectors, including energy, tourism, road transport, financial sector and households.

‘Perhaps they don’t have to be nationally agreed targets between the governments of the UK and the Cayman Islands,’ she said. ‘They could be targets agreed with sectors. They may wish to propose their own. As long as those types of initiatives fall under some sort of policy objective, that would allow us to meet our obligations.’

In May 2002, the UK ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets and timetables for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and this was extended to Cayman and Bermuda in March 2007.

Mr. Burt said he encouraged Cayman and Bermuda to take action to limit their usage of greenhouse gases and to set a target as a guide.

He said that the information being sent from Cayman for the emission inventory needed to be refined to close some gaps in data about what kinds of vehicles are used here; combustion in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial processes; the use of solvents such as bleach and ammonia; and land use, land use change and forestry.

In 1990, the production of electricity accounted for 161.7 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide – by 2007, it accounted for 372.1 kilotonnes. Water desalination led to the emission of 44.3 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide in 1990 and that had increased to 350.5 kilotonnes by 2007.

Other areas examined in relation to the production of carbon dioxide were road transport, which increased from 107.4 kilotonnes in 1990 to 181.6 kilotonnes in 2007, and shipping which grew from 11.7 kilotonnes in 1990 to 20.7 kilotonnes in 2007.

Mr. Burt urged Cayman to find cleaner ways of producing electricity. Caribbean Utilities Company produces most of its electricity by burning diesel.

‘I think the main recommendation would be to find ways of generating electricity that emits less carbon dioxide … one of the main ways of doing that is renewable energy, either industrially with big wind turbines or it could be small scale – photovoltaics on people’s roofs,’ Mr. Burt said.

Cayman took its first steps toward adapting renewable energy in recent months, introducing a Customer Owned Renewable Energy programme, which allows customers to generate their own power and sell any additional energy back to CUC’s grid. CUC has also invited expressions of interest from commercial enterprises to partner with the utilities company to erect wind turbines.

Last week saw the completion of Cayman Islands’ first residential home powered entirely by solar energy.

Mr. Burt pointed out that although Cayman might be a tiny jurisdiction, it still had the power to impact other nations when it comes to tackling climate change.

‘A lot of what the Cayman Islands can do is going to be applicable in lots of other Caribbean countries,’ he said. ‘If the Cayman Islands is able to take a lead, other countries are likely to follow. It is a matter of taking those initial steps that at the time can feel very challenging. The long-term benefits can be very significant.’.

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