Climate change is a hot topic (pun intended?) around the world currently, so I thought it might be beneficial to put some of the information into context as it relates to us locally in Cayman. For the purpose of this post, I am going to be looking at the carbon emissions of Cayman, generally looking at trends and making an argument for the future.
Starting with the basics, carbon emissions can be defined as the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time (OECD, 1992). These emissions can come from a variety of sources, which for the purpose of the data in this post can be categorized as gas, liquid, solid, cement, flaring and bunker*.
Looking specifically at The Cayman Islands’ total emissions, you can see that the total emissions are trending upward, and have been doing so since data became available for analysis. The equation on the graph was formulated for the trendline, and what it is showing is that (with 95% confidence [R2 value]) the Cayman Islands on average is tripling their national emissions per annum. With that said, looking at the data in comparison to some of the heavier emitting countries, our impact globally is minimal (according to 2013 data we are emitting only 0.01% of what the United States is emitting). That does not mean, however, that our impact does not exist; we are but a small island nation, but we could be one of the first to feel the brunt of climate change in terms of rising sea levels, ocean temperature rise and acidification that could drastically impair our environment and therefore our economy and livelihoods.
It also must be taken into consideration the size of populations when speaking about emissions, as the size of the Cayman Islands populace is much smaller than that of China or the United States (some of the largest carbon emitters globally). Looking at the graph below, you can see that 2013 per capita emissions in Cayman (2.52) are less than the US (4.4), but in were actually 23% higher than that of China (2.05). According to 2008 data, Cayman ranked as #32 in terms of highest per capita emissions (CDIAC, 2008).
Considering we are such a small nation, that is a terrifying number. Our island has such potential for sustainable growth into cleaner, greener industries that would not only benefit the environment but further diversify our economy and put Cayman on the global stage of sustainable development. I included Aruba on this graph to reiterate these exact points, as Aruba is a fellow island nation that has high per capita emissions, but is drastically changing that fact.
From this graph, you can see Aruba (purple line) has undergone some extreme changes in terms of per capita emissions going from the highest in 2011, with a per capita emission of 6.52 down to 2.32 in 2013, which is below our per capita rate of 2.52 metric tonnes. If you are asking yourself what might have caused such a drastic drop in emissions, the answer is quite plainly a change in policy that was presented formally in 2012 to push the country towards 100% renewable energy by the year 2020. Before Aruba started rapidly diversifying their energy portfolio, around 80% of their energy was sourced by imported fuel oil. Aruba changed its metering system to be one of net metering, which allowed for renewable energy generators to be connected to the public-utility power grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility and gave compensation for surplus generation of energy. In addition, import duties on wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars were also reduced to encourage adoption of clean energy technologies. These changes have seen massive results, with the country currently boasting 40% of it’s energy coming from renewable sources in 2016.
Is Cayman Aruba? No, of course not. We are our own island nation, with our own proud heritage and background that makes our plight different to anywhere else on the planet when it comes to dealing with climate change and the social changes we need to be reactive. But could we follow in the footsteps of our fellow island nation? I think that if you don’t believe the answer to that question is a resounding yes, then you are part of the problem.
The Cayman Islands Electricity Regulatory Agency (ERA) in 2015 approved a 5MW solar project through Entropy Solar Cayman, making it the first solar plant in Cayman and a gateway for new possibilities and change. The Solar industry in Cayman is slowly but surely starting to pick up speed and make a name for itself, with individuals taking it upon themselves to power their homes or business partially or fully off the grid of CUC with solar and geothermal heating and cooling techniques. In my opinion, it is not enough for these individual instances to be what is pushing the market here on island, what we need is government incentive that incites change on a national level and pushes our energy sourcing away from fuel oil and towards renewable energy, akin to Aruba.
The Cayman Islands government recently released an energy proposal stating their plan to move Cayman to 70% renewable energy by the year 2037. This is a step in the right direction and I am extremely pleased to see such steps, but with the unknown future as it relates to the environment and our economy, now is not the time for steps – it is the time for head first dives. With that said, by implementing these policy changes, Cayman would be increasing our renewable energy output by 10x the average of what we have today, which according to the national policy is only 0.9% of our total energy budget.
*not included in national total
The datasets that have been used for calculations in this post are from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) and can be found at the following link:
I have also hyperlinked the graphs to take you to the raw data should you be interested in looking at that or playing around with the numbers yourself.
Directorate, OECD Statistics. “OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms – Carbon Dioxide Emissions Definition.” OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms – Carbon Dioxide Emissions Definition. June 4, 1992. Accessed March 04, 2017. https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=6323.
CDIAC. “Per Capita Carbon Emission Ranking.” Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC). 2008. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/top2008.cap.
NREL. “Energy Snapshot – Aruba.” Energy Transition Initiative, 2012. Accessed March 4, 2017. doi:10.1007/springerreference_65787.
Kennedy, Sarah. “Aruba Commits to 100 Percent Renewables.” Yale Climate Connections. November 07, 2016. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2016/11/aruba-commits-to-100-percent-renewables/.