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'Coal does not have a future'

Newsweek’s Green Business Icon talks of business opportunities in climate change

Friday, July 18, 2014    

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JAMAICA'S private sector was yesterday warned not to allow coal-fired plants into the country's energy mix as they are financially and environmentally unsustainable.

Addressing the Climate Change Learning Conference for the Private Sector at the Pegasus Hotel, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions L Hunter Lovins said of all the fossil fuels, coal, which is being proposed for the trans-shipment port on Goat Islands, as well as for the mothballed bauxite plants in Manchester and St Elizabeth, emits the most carbon -- the primary culprit in climate change -- and carries a heavy price tag in terms of construction.

"Coal as a future? No!" she said.

"Coal does not have a future. It should absolutely not be thought out for Jamaica. Why on earth would you accept any technology that you do not have here in Jamaica?"

"This is an incredibly energy-rich country," she continued, highlighting Jamaica's abundance of sun, wind and water. "The notion that you are beggaring your economy to buy imported oil [and] kill the climate to worsen the storms that are impacting your people is crazy."

Lovins emphasised the need for Jamaica to follow the example of Germany, a country with less sun availability, and look into developing industries around solar, wind and biofuel.

"If you are not investing nationally in an immediate transition to renewable energy, you are on the wrong side of history," Lovins said.

The Climate Change Learning Conference for the Private Sector was by the United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.

Citing energy-efficient practices adopted by Miami-Dade, Sacramento, California, New York and Chicago which she said have created over 40,000 jobs, $1 billion increase in tax benefits, and $10 billion increase in economic output, Lovins, an American who has been named the Green Business Icon by Newsweek, argued that if companies were to pay attention to their carbon emissions and put energy-saving practices in place, they would experience five per cent higher equity, growth and total returns.

Climate change, she said, was not about polar bears, but about business.

"Climate-related disasters trap people into poverty, and failure to incorporate environmental planning as part of national development could have disastrous consequences for Jamaica," she said.

She warned that if climate change proceeds unchecked, Jamaica could lose its coastal tourism, become ravaged by floods, droughts and uncontrollable forest fires, like those in the US state of Colorado. A United Nations report revealed that by 2050, the world would need 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 80 per cent more water. It also highlighted that by 2030, China would require all the oil in the world for its industries.

"In a world of climate change, these numbers are impossible and the economics for Jamaica are impossible. You are already spending more to buy imports and oil that you are producing in income."

With the world emitting over 32 gigatons of carbon each year, Lovins pointed out that this rate needed to be reduced to 14 gigatons by 2050 if we were to make any difference. Behaviour change should be part of this process.

But Lovins reminded the gathering of private sector representatives that the time for action was running out.

"Right now Jamaica has very little renewables, but this is your opportunity...There are a lot people here in Jamaica who have the answers," she said.

— Suzette Bonas

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