Protecting the environment and creating jobs are not mutually exclusive aims say DOE researchers.

As Cayman plans its vision for a post-COVID future, ideas are emerging for a green recovery. Here we summarise some of the recommendations from various reports and advisors that they say can help grow jobs and protect the environment.

1. Commit to renewable energy

Installing solar panel systems is expected to be the fastest-growing employment category in the United States over the next decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Investment in renewable energy, particularly rooftop solar, in Cayman, could help the island achieve similar jobs growth, says James Whittaker, head of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association.

The Rocky Mountain Institute in the US, which provides technical support and, in some instances, secures grant funding for Caribbean islands aiming to reduce their reliance on oil, also highlights diversified energy as the key to creating jobs across the Caribbean as part of the post-COVID economic recovery.

2. Green loans

A National Energy Reduction Programme offering loans to help people renovate their homes to make them more energy efficient is being proposed.

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The idea involves a bank loan programme to help fund upgrades to buildings, such as better insulation or new air conditioning units, so they use less electricity. In theory, the upgrades pay for themselves over time in utility-bill savings.

The scheme is understood to have been earmarked for fast-tracking by the Special Economic Advisory Council, which is investigating options for the islands’ post-COVID vision.

3. Invest in cycling infrastructure

Governments often use infrastructure projects to help people get back to work and stimulate the economy after a recession.

The most famous examples in the ‘new deal’ programme of public works which was credited with digging the US out of the great depression in the 1930s.

Cayman’s Department of Environment has highlighted cycle and footpath infrastructure as an option that would help create jobs and allow islanders to retain one of the few things they enjoyed during lockdown – the absence of traffic.

“What we are suggesting is a really deliberate plan for these interconnected pathways for walking and cycling, and things like that,” said Tim Austin, deputy director of the DOE.

4. Expand marine parks and commit to sustainable tourism

Sustainable travellers stay longer and spend more money than other tourists, according to data compiled by the Mandela Research group for a 2016 study.

It’s a niche part of the market that the DOE believes Cayman could corner if it makes the right changes.

Starfish point has been revived since the COVID-19 enforced closure.

Carrying capacities for natural attractions like Stingray City, a national certification programme for tourism guides, investment in protected areas, and following through with the expansion of the islands’ marine parks are among its recommendations.

The tourism committee of the Strategic Economic Advisory Council has also proposed repositioning Cayman as a ‘sustainable destination’.

5. Invest in the circular economy

“A circular economy means designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating the natural system,” according to the DOE report.

“It means sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.”

One example is ‘upcycling’ – refurbishing and rebuilding secondhand goods and appliances for resale. The report recommends partnering with the University College of the Cayman islands and others to invest in skills development in this area.

* James Whittaker, the president of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association, and James Whittaker, the author of this article, are not related.

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