Morse: Young people must demand action on climate change

Graham Morse

In London this Easter, Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish climate activist, joined the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ demonstration, blocking the streets of central London to demand action on climate change. She met, and was warmly supported by, all the main UK political parties. The UK government is taking notice.

The UK already produces 50% of its energy from low carbon sources but recognises much more needs to be done, and soon. The inter-party Committee on Climate Change has stated that the UK must get to net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 and explains how it must be done.

What is being done here in Cayman? In May 2016, Winston Connolly’s private members bill to introduce a National Energy Policy was unanimously approved by the Legislative Assembly. A panel of experts (the National Energy Policy Review Committee) produced a blueprint for the plan and a target of 70% of our power to be generated from renewable sources by 2037. The National Energy Policy was passed into law in 2017. CUC responded to the challenge and published an Integrated Resource Plan showing how the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy could be achieved.

Two years later, little appears to have been done. There are no plans to add utility-scale solar farms to the Bodden Town plant which opened in 2017 and produces around 5% of Cayman’s power. Home owners who want to put solar panels on their roofs are daunted by the stop/start uncertainty of the current CUC CORE programme, due to end later this year. PV solar installers need certainty of continuity of the CORE programme. They continue to be hampered by red tape and bureaucracy.

Businesses here have large roof spaces. Demand rates, the CUC tariff designed to incentivise business to put solar panels on their roofs, is a start, but is only likely to be attractive to large commercial customers. New initiatives to increase our generation of renewable energy have been put forward but nothing has been approved yet. Industry insiders believe the problem lies with OfReg who have not given the approvals needed to move the process forward.

Cayman has to play its part in meeting the global threat of climate change: low lying islands like Cayman will be the worst affected. An independent [committee] was set up to monitor the progress of the National Energy Plan. The appointment of an energy czar who would be a champion for renewable energy – a good idea – was promised but has not materialised. We need to know what is happening. Why cannot the National Energy Policy Committee hold a press conference and tell the media what the situation is and why so little progress has been made in two years?

Greta Thunberg has galvanised school children around the world to take direct action and politicians are listening. It is young people that care most about climate change. A recent YouGov poll in the UK showed that 43% in the age group 18-24 put the environment in their top three issues. That compared with 19% for those aged 65 or over.

Perhaps it will take the Greta generation in Cayman to take to the streets and demand action on climate change. They are the next generation and it will be difficult for government to ignore them.

Graham Morse, author and ocean sailor, built his own eco-friendly house in Cayman in 2011, is an advocate for the environment and renewable energy, and is a member of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association.

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