I have just returned from a month in London. It is hard not to pick up a newspaper or watch the news on radio or TV without getting drawn into the climate change debate and the problem of air pollution.
But things are changing. The buses are electric, as are many of the iconic black cabs. One cab driver told me he was making so much more money by buying a fully electric cab that he could take a month off and still make the same take-home money. Charging was no problem. An overnight charge and a plug-in while he was having his lunch was all that he needed.
The UK government has committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a ban on all gasoline and diesel fuelled vehicles by 2040.
The all-party Climate Change Committee has set out a detailed report on how to achieve net zero emissions. Much progress has already been made, with 50% of the UK electric supply now being generated from non-carbon sources.
New technology will play an increasing part in achieving the government’s goals. Hydrogen will come into the picture and a hydrogen train is being tested. Developing technology will allow machines to capture and store carbon dioxide, and planting more trees is part of the solution.
Climate deniers have been drowned out by the overwhelming scientific evidence, and even they are conceding, not that it is not happening, but challenging how fast it is happening and how catastrophic the outcomes could be.
The debate now has moved on to estimating the cost of change to net zero emissions. What will people be prepared to give up to become carbon neutral? Would they give up eating beef? Would they take fewer flights or pay more?
Back here in Cayman, it feels very different. Two years have passed since our National Energy Policy was passed into law with a target of 70% of our power to be generated from renewable sources by 2037. But little appears to have been done.
Only around 5% of Cayman’s power comes from renewable sources. No plans have been announced to add to the utility-scale solar farm in Bodden Town. Home and business owners who want to put solar panels on their roofs are put off by the red tape and bureaucracy that discourages it. Indeed, the CUC CORE program that incentivises home owners to put solar panels on their roofs is due to end later this year.
We have companies here in Cayman who are expert in designing and installing renewable energy systems, but in the face of such uncertainty and frustration, they have had to go elsewhere in the Caribbean to grow their businesses. That shouldn’t be happening. We need them, and the local jobs that they bring, here in Cayman.
If ever there was a region that is ideal for electric vehicles, it is Cayman. Limited range is the big turn-off for many buyers switching to electric. But most electric vehicles are capable of doing 100 miles without a recharge. How many drivers in Cayman do that mileage in a day?
The National Energy Policy mandated that fully electric vehicles would come into Cayman duty free, making them very price competitive. But the law has not been implemented. Why not? Presumably [it is] buried in government and OfReg bureaucracy like other renewable energy initiatives.
Low lying islands like Cayman will be the worst affected by the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. And yet there is no public debate. This issue matters to us. We need to know what is happening. Why is there no information coming from the government? From OfReg? From the independent Energy Policy Committee which was set up to monitor the progress of the National Energy Plan? Or from CUC?
Does Cayman care about climate change? Do you think the government should be doing more? This newspaper now has a policy of encouraging debate through its letter page. Let the Compass know what you think.
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.