MINISTRY OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
SPEECH FOR THE HON MINISTER OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
THE HONOURABLE PENELOPE BECKLES
The GCCA+ Solar Panel Installation Programme
Bloody Bay Recreation Site Visitor Centre,
Main Ridge Forest Reserve, Tobago
Friday 13th January, 2023 at 10:30 a.m.
- Hon. Ayanna Webster Roy - Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister – Gender and Child Affairs and Member of Parliament for Tobago East;
- Hon. Farley Augustine - Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly;
- Assemblyman Nathisha Charles-Pantin - Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development;
- Councilor Tashia Grace-Burris - Secretary for Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation;
- Assemblyman Nigel Taitt - Assistant Secretary in the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development;
- Ambassador Peter Cavendish – Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago;
- Mr. Gerardo Noto – Resident Representative, UNDP;
- All other Invited Guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.
A pleasant morning to you all.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to bring greetings to you this morning on the occasion of the launch of the European Union’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus or GCCA Plus’ Solar Installation Programme at the Bloody Bay Recreation Site Visitor Centre, Main Ridge Forest Reserve.
As many of us would know, Trinidad & Tobago had a high per capita energy consumption of five thousand nine hundred and eleven kilowatts per hour per capita in 2019 when compared to the world average of three thousand eighty one kilowatts per hour per capita. Nearly half of the households in T&T have a consumption level that is on par with the North American households and nearly three times the global average. Trinidad and Tobago’s electricity generation is also almost solely dependent on natural gas, consuming approximately eight per cent of total natural gas produced in the country. Total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were estimated as forty one million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
These unflattering statistics, coupled with the increasingly progressive international climate agenda, encouraged the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to pursue climate action through the development of a broad climate agenda. Trinidad and Tobago became a party to numerous international legally binding agreements on matters relating to climate change including the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement. Becoming party to these agreements not only signaled to the global community that Trinidad and Tobago is serious in our intent to help tackle this crisis but it also allows us access to the international programmes, resources and technical assistance to support our efforts locally.
The Global Climate Change Alliance Plus is one such international programme and is a flagship initiative of the European Union geared towards helping the world's most vulnerable countries to address the issue of climate change and implement their national commitments, such as their Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs.
Trinidad and Tobago through the Ministry of Planning and Development was able to partner with the Delegation of the European Union to ensure that we were able to design projects to be able to access the GCCA plus programme and contribute to the achievement of our NDCs. I would like to sincerely thank Ambassador Cavendish and his team at the EU Delegation for facilitating the negotiations and bringing to fruition tangible, on-the-ground projects. The process to get us to this point began in 2017 and the support we received extends beyond the limits of the current activities outlined in this grant. The sign of true partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals, as highlighted by SDG goal seventeen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I can tell you that I am extremely proud of the continued partnership we have with the EU, as we have been able to deliver yet another Solar Installation at a site that promotes the conservation and responsible use of nature.
Last year we delivered the first of twelve solar installations at Nature Seekers in Matura, an organization that works tirelessly to conserve the Leatherback Turtles and I cannot think of a better place to deliver the first Solar Installation for 2023, than at the Main Ridge Visitor Centre in Tobago.
Some of us may be aware that the Main Ridge Forest Reserve is the first Forest Reserve in the Western Hemisphere, a title for which we can all celebrate the two hundred and forty seventh Anniversary in April this year. This title is needed now more than ever as the Main Ridge continues to be the home of endemic species such as the Oscillated Gecko and the white-tailed Sabre Wing Hummingbird.
The Main Ridge is at the heart of Tobago’s Eco-Tourism product with just under four thousand hectares of forest filled with exotic flora and fauna that attracts eco-tourists from around the world who engage in hiking and bird watching. The Visitor Centre provides not only a space for refreshment and amenities for visitors but also a tremendous educational experience to tourists not to mention the most picturesque view.
This solar installation will therefore be a most invaluable resource to the Visitor Center as the fifteen Kilowatt system will boast an estimated Annual Energy Production of twenty five thousand and twenty one kilowatts per hour and will avoid an estimated sixteen thousand three hundred and fifteen kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Just to put that data into context, if this building were home to a family of four, and based on the annual per-capita consumption of electricity in Trinidad and Tobago that I gave previously, this building would have excess power to supply to the grid. This also represents an added value beyond the power supply and cost savings as the Visitor Centre now presents a special appeal to those visitors who seek an eco-tourism product with a minimal carbon footprint whilst offering the amenities necessary for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
I therefore wish to take this opportunity to also acknowledge the work of the United Nations Development Programme through their office in Trinidad and Tobago, as this component of the GCCA Plus Programme managed by the UNDP started by setting ambitious targets. It includes ten more rooftop scale solar energy systems in remote communities and I am looking forward to seeing all remaining installations completed. The team at the UNDP has worked assiduously to keep the project on track despite the numerous challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The lengthy period of lockdowns, shipping constraints and supply issues were navigated with innovation and ingenuity. Thank you and congratulations on a job well done.
Some of us will know that this programme seeks to deliver much more than the twelve solar installations as the UNDP was also tasked with drafting a framework for a Feed in Tariff for future Grid-Tied systems as well as a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency conducive policy and legislative framework and public awareness raising on Energy Efficiency. The overall aim is to assist Trinidad and Tobago in increasing the availability and use of energy from renewable sources as well as to increase the efficiency levels in the consumption of energy.
This therefore contributes to the fulfillment of our goals regarding Sustainable Development Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy, as well as our commitment in Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy, Vision 2030, to Place the Environment at the Centre of Social and Economic Development, articulated in Theme Five.
I therefore wish to thank the UNDP for partnering with us and the EU on this most critical area of national development.
I am assured with the quality of work that we have received thus far that Trinidad and Tobago has good things to look forward to in the near future.
Finally, I would like to give special thanks to the Management of the Main Ridge Visitor Centre and by extension the Division Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development of the THA for agreeing to be part of this historic project and for the tremendous work the organisation continues to do. The Main Ridge Forest Reserve can boast of being voted the "World's Leading Eco-Tourism destination" by the World Travel Awards in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, thereby illustrating that it has intrinsic ecological value that tourists from all over the world seek and that it has the necessary management systems in place to foster sustainable development of the Reserve.
I offer my appreciation and encouragement to continue your great work as it relates to environmental sustainability of the Main Ridge. You serve as an inspiration to the Nation not only as it relates to your stellar work in conservation, but now as a proponent for the use of renewable energy. It is my hope that we can now appropriately market this new addition to the site in a way that not only attracts more visitors but also brands Trinidad and Tobago as a tourism destination that is heading in the direction of environmental sustainability.
Ladies and Gentlemen I thank you.