sdgs-list-enThe SDGs are a large and ambitious agenda; therefore, countries will need to identify specific areas to focus their initial efforts on SDG achievement. On July 21, 2016, the Caribbean SDSN and it’s host institution, the University of the West Indies (UWI), held a high-level, multi-stakeholder forum to discuss this question, with a focus on energy security in the region (SDGs 7 & 13).

The first panel consisted of Devon Gardner of CARICOM, Patrick Watson of UWI, and Minister Ian Liburd of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Post, Urban Development, and Transport of St. Kitts and Nevis. They discussed how the Caribbean can drive low-carbon growth, raising standards of living while maintaining or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Minister Liburd shared an example from St. Kitts, where a Taiwanese solar panel manufacturing company has opened a factory to supply the region.

The second panel included Gary Clyne of the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Clayton of UWI, Kamal Shahrabi of SUNY Farmingdale, and Gary Barrow of JPSCo. Panelists discussed exciting technological innovations to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also improving service provision and resilience to climactic events. Clyne shared plans for an emission trading scheme for the Caribbean region, with potential linkages to existing North American programs, while Clayton presented on innovations in energy efficient and zero-carbon buildings in the region. Shahrabi presented on a number of innovations at the consumer level, such as smart meters provided by electric companies, smart appliances that have been designed to increase efficiency, and mobile apps to help consumers track and improve their energy use.

20160621_152554The third and final session included presentations from Anthony Clayton of UWI, Damien King of UWI, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the SDSN, and Mariame McIntosh Robinson of First Global Bank. Clayton shared some alarming statistics on personal security in the region, including rising rates of homicide and violence. While violence is declining in most countries, several countries in the region have seen dramatic increases in recent decades, including Jamaica. Clayton emphasized the opportunity that SDG 16 (peaceful societies) presents to reduce these tragedies. King discussed some of the macroeconomic challenges facing Jamaica, such as a large national debt and high interest rates, and how these challenges will affect the country’s achievement of SDG 1 (poverty eradication) and SDG 8 (economic growth). Sachs presented the SDGs as a tool and framework for countries to address the most pressing challenges of our time, and take into account and balance tradeoffs. He suggested Caribbean countries use the SDGs as part of long term growth planning, balancing the economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, so that achievement in one area does not detract from achievement in the others. Sachs also presented the SDSN’s SDG Index and Dashboard as a way to track progress for the next 15 years. Finally, McIntosh Robinson described the role of the private sector in achieving several of the SDGs, including 8 (economic growth), 9 (infrastructure), and 12 (sustainable consumption and production). She noted that in Jamaica specifically, youth unemployment is a staggering 30% relative to the national average of only 13%, and unemployment for women is double that of men. She called on the private sector to work with the public sector to ensure that the conditions are good for economic growth (SDG 8) and with academia to ensure young people have the skills they need to do well in today’s economy (SDG 4), and concluded that the SDGs offered a strong blueprint for this over the next 15 years.

20160621_161719During the discussions, participants highlighted other aspects of the SDGs that they believed were important for the region, including gender equality and social inclusion (SDGs 5 and 10), water and sanitation (SDG 6), and the need to protect the region’s unique ecosystems (SDGs 14 and 15), including rainforests and coral reefs, to provide both ecosystem services to Caribbean people and a strong tourism sector. The discussion also highlighted several areas of future work for the SDSN Caribbean, including publishing a regional-specific version of the SDG Index, and a follow-up meeting later this year to discuss partnerships between the different actors.

Media Coverage:

Energy sector to decide CARICOM’s future — Liburd | Jamaica Gleaner

UWI seeks to educate Caribbean leaders on climate change – Regional heads lacking urgency on global threat, says King | Jamaica Gleaner

Energy-efficiency strategy coming for the Caribbean | Jamaica Gleaner

Sachs, UNSDN, push for implementation of SDGs | Jamaica Observer