By Jhannel Tomlinson of the Youth Climate Change Activists (YCCA)
The novel coronavirus has over the past few months, evolved into an unprecedented international crisis, with serious repercussions for the physical, mental and socio-economic wellbeing of many individuals. These impacts coupled with the challenges being seen in global markets, have been at the forefront of governmental action. As countries seek to rebuild by responding to these interlinked crises, however, it is critical that they not lose sight of a major challenge of our time: climate change and the need for cleaner and greener economies.
One indicator of the pandemic’s far-reaching impact has been its effect on carbon dioxide emissions. According to the National Geographic (2020), carbon emissions were down an estimated 18 % percent in China and an estimated 9% in the European Union, due to the reduction in industrial and commercial activity, brought about by COVID-19. This revelation has seen leaders, especially those in Small Island Developing States, calling for a shift to more sustainable economies that work for both people and the planet, where we seek to ‘build back better’ in an attempt to create a healthy, resilient and decarbonized world. Clean energy is one solution, to achieving this and is in line with climate targets that can help mitigate the impacts of climate change while helping to prepare for other crises similar to COVID-19. The advancement of renewable-based energy creates opportunities to meet international climate goals while enhancing local economic growth, creating millions of jobs, and engaging youth in the development of innovative technologies.
Today, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a movement accredited with debuting modern environmental action and in an effort to showcase those promoting clean energy in the region, we here highlight the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which has sought to advance work in in the area of renewable energy, re-affirming their commitment to sustainable development and showcasing alignment with this year’s theme - Time for Nature.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamaica
The UNDP Multi Country Office in Jamaica office has a mandate to work with governments and citizens to nurture their individual and collective solutions to global and national development challenges. With three priority areas of sustainable development, democratic governance and resistance to shocks and stresses, the UNDP has been steadfast in ensuring that vulnerable populations are empowered to improve their development prospects and national resilience is being strengthened to stand against a wide range of shocks and crises. In the area of energy security, they have also sought to provide support both at the national and local levels, through their engagement with different stakeholders.
Implemented by the UNDP, the Deployment of Renewable Energy and Improvement of Energy Efficiency in the Public Sector Project, aims to build relevant capacity in the public sector by increasing knowledge related to renewable energy as well as reducing Jamaica’s public sector energy bill through the introduction of renewable energy and improvement in energy efficiency in the health sector. The participating Public Health Facilities include the Bellevue, National Chest, Sir John Golding, May Pen, Black River and Savanna-la-mar Hospitals.
At the local level, they have also funded a project through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP), in the St. Andrew Settlement community, where residents were illegally acquiring electricity from the local community centre. In an effort to reduce the high overhead costs being endured by the centre and to further empower residents to become engaged in sustainable living, the community was provided with a grant which saw the implementation of a 10 Kilowatt solar energy system; the training of residents in basic solar energy PV design and installation and distribution of LED lights. As a result of the installation of the solar energy system, the energy bills within the community were reduced by 76% initially and by the end of 2017, the centre was averaging 60% reduction in monthly bills. 
Importantly, there were also benefits that were being afforded to the youth as five young people had received training in solar installation and had further been given the opportunity to advance their training. One of the trainees who later became an instructor in the programme, highlighted that he had a great experience and that in being exposed to the technology, he is now able to work and earn an income for himself and for that he is extremely happy. UNDP’s work has therefore showcased their commitment to working with stakeholders at different levels to create solutions that provide co-benefits and that address the problems being faced by vulnerable groups.
The way forward
The reduction in revenue and economic activity caused by the pandemic will create a reason for individuals and companies to reduce their operating costs. Governments should therefore seek to increase their climate ambitions and incentivise those who seek to implement clean energy technologies. The coronavirus crisis has caused significant damages within the region and instead of allowing it to pose a barrier to a renewable energy transition, an effort must be made to create and/or seize opportunities. The system must be ‘rebooted’ to avoid returning to the past and a systemic approach is needed.
UNDP is among a number of entities in the region which has showcased the importance of collaboration in executing reliable and effective renewable energy initiatives. UNDP has shown that they consider the youth as critical stakeholders in the journey towards sustainable and efficient energy systems. It is therefore important to learn from the example of UNDP and other like-minded agencies on how to effectively promote renewable energy, engaging varying stakeholders and promoting sustainable development, especially as we move towards the future, post COVID-19.
 Source: UNDP Jamaica Website https://www.jm.undp.org/
 Source : UNDP Jamaica, 2018- Causes and Community