Belize became the first of five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to begin implementation of a multi-million dollar regional energy efficiency project, the Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Caribbean Buildings Project, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and making the energy sectors in the participating countries of Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago more efficient while increasing their use of renewable energy. The project was officially launched on 13 August 2013, at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel, and was attended by approximately 30 key stakeholders involved in the project.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Al Binger, Energy Science Advisor at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and Technical Coordinator for the ESD Project, said that the Caribbean region imports in excess of 170 million barrels of petroleum products, annually, with 30 million barrels used in the electric sector, and since buildings are major consumers of electricity across the region, the project focuses on the buildings sector for improving the efficiency of energy use. “The regional project has five national components whose outputs are expected to make a significant contribution to improved use of electrical energy in these countries and provide examples of best practices across the region, and consists of various interventions whose outputs will contribute to increasing the markets, addressing financing barriers, and increasing awareness and building capacity,” he said.

The USD 12,484,500 project, funded by a USD 4,859,000 grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with USD 7,625,500 in co-financing from the CCCCC and the five participating countries, is a major priority for the participating governments - in three of the five countries, buildings are the major consumers of electricity. The project is expected to increase the number of successful commercial applications of energy efficiency and conservation in buildings; expand the market for renewable energy technology applications for power generation and productive uses; enhance institutional capacity to design, implement and monitor energy projects for sustainable development; provide access and availability of financing energy efficiency and conservation and renewable energy projects, and; increase awareness and knowledge on sustainable energy among key stakeholders.

The project launch took the form of an Inception Meeting of the Belize National Steering Committee (NSC) which will have overall responsibility for the management, coordination and implementation of the ESD Project activities. The Belize NSC comprises the Ministry of Energy, Science & Technology and Public Utilities, the national project executing agency; Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; Ministry of Housing and Urban Development; Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Department of Environment and the Climate Change Office; Public Utilities Commission; Central Building Authority; Development Finance Corporation; Belize Bureau of Standards; Belize Hotel Association; Chamber of Commerce, and the Belize Customs and Excise Department.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the GEF implementing agency, with the CCCCC as the executing agency, with technical support from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The project represents the first regional project that is piloting energy efficiency improvements in the economy in CARICOM, while at the same time aiming to increase the use of renewable energy and will be implemented over the period 2013 – 2017, and it is expected that the policies, measures, and mechanism that will be developed and adopted under the project will result in a reduction of 20 percent in GHG emissions in the near-term, and an even larger reduction of GHG emissions in the longer-term.