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Succesful EPCA Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas

Last thursday (April 15th) began in Washington DC , the 1st Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas. The main participants were Dr. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy; Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State; Luis Alberto Moreno, IADB President and Energy Ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean.  Sessions took place at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and today at the Organization of American States (OAS). 

The objective:  to discuss challenges of energy security and climate change. In April 2009, leaders from across the Western Hemisphere met in Trinidad & Tobago for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. During the course of the Summit, hemispheric leaders agreed that ensuring energy security, promoting alternative energy resources and acting in unison to confront the effects of global climate change are among the greatest challenges facing our community of nations. One of the proposals that was set forth in Port of Spain focused on ways to increase cooperation in the hemisphere; a framework for an “Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas” or ECPA.

This meeting of over 30 energy ministers and country representatives from the Americas  further supports the ECPA process and was called by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Analysts said that U.S. is constructing forums for interamerican dialogue, that are not ideological or can be misinterpreted,  in an effort to deepen regional participation and integration, and to advance the goals laid out in Trinidad & Tobago for the initiative.

Some of the speakers were Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB),  Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State,Dan Poneman, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, 
Ricardo Raineri, Minister of Energy, Chile; Hernán Martinez Torres, Minister of Energy and Mining, Colombia; Pedro Sanchez, Minister of Energy and Mines, Peru; Jose Coimbra, Minister of Mines & Energy, Brazil;  Jacques Gabriel, Minister of Public Works, Transportation and Communication, Haiti;
among others.  The sessions versed on issues like “Renewable Energy: Cleaner and More Efficient Use of Fossil Fuels and Energy Poverty”,  and ” Energy Efficiency, Electric Power & Gas Infrastructure and Financiing Mechanisms & Policy Frameworks”.

On her remarks, Secretary Clinton expressed that ” Secretary´s Chu presence this morning, and mine here today, gives you  the strong message as to how committed the Obama Administration is to this initiative”.  She mentioned many examples of governments and businesses in our hemisphere that are investing in new technologies and new sources of energy mainly in five critical areas of engagement: energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, energy poverty,  infrastructure, sustainable forestry and land use, and adaptation to assist developing countries that have been and are being hardest hit by climate change.”

Hillary Clinton said that the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas fills a critical niche “as one of my staff put it, it’s a little like Facebook; anyone can start an initiative and invite others to join, and countries can be part of as many initiatives as they choose. Or as one diplomat from the region said each of us is like a ship at sea, and though we may follow slightly different courses, we’re all making similar voyages and we can help each other on our journeys. So the goal of this partnership is not to impose requirements or regulations but to create a forum and framework to share best practices, to collaborate and promote solutions, deepen regional ties, and foster local and national leadership.”

Some examples of these hemispheric initiatives are :

Canada is improving oil and gas extraction practices and promote responsible land management. Colombia, is spearheading an initiative to help build and eventually link the infrastructure for long distance electrical transmission from Panama through the Andean states to Chile. Integrating these electrical grids will decrease energy losses, improve efficiency, and provide a powerful example of regional cooperation.  Mexico is taking steps to turn its wind energy center in Oaxaca into a regional center so governments interested in wind technology can study its model. Brazil, which is building two million energy-efficient homes over the next four years, has launched a project called Building with Energy Efficiency and Sustainability. It focuses on green construction, especially in urban areas. 

One of the objectives is to work to advance sustainable energy in the Caribbean. This is the area of the world most dependent on imported fossil fuels and suffering from the world’s highest electricity rates. The OAS will help get clean energy projects off the ground for the Caribbean.  In that sense. last wednesday April 14th,  the OAS, the Caribbean energy ministers, CARICOM, the World Bank, the IDB, and officials from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands launched a dialogue to explore the possibility of installing undersea electric cables in the region to give the Caribbean access to new power supplies. Another exciting possibility would link Puerto Rico with the U.S. Virgin Islands and a third would link the islands of Nevis and St. Kitts. The idea is that in the future instead of waiting for those oil tankers to come and dock, Caribbean nations are supplying each other with energy, whether it’s geothermal power from Dominica or gas from Trinidad.

Another objective of this Ministerial is to support energy and environmental security in Central America in their goal of integrating their power infrastructures. Nothing concrete is now on the way, except for isolated efforts.

Mrs. Clinton also said that  the United States has named three top scientists to serve as ECPA fellows and consultants:

a) Dr. Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California at Berkeley, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, the co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment, and the director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center. He was the coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

b) Dr. Ruth DeFries, a professor of sustainable development at Columbia University, whose research explores the consequences of human behavior on climate, biodiversity, habitats, and ecosystems. She’s also an expert on tropical deforestation and its impact on carbon emissions. 

c) Dr. Gerry Galloway, an engineering professor at the University of Maryland, whose focus is on the management of water resources and the impact of climate change on water systems.  

Finally, Mrs. Clinton put an end to her remarks by saying “I want you to know that the United States, under President Obama, stands ready to help in any way we can. We want to see growth that is sustainable. We want to see rising incomes. We want to see better lives. And we want to see the gap between talent and opportunity begin to narrow for the sake of us all.”

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