By Klysha Best
How many of you believe that climate change is real?
Well, in the last few years, the world has experienced devastating extreme weather caused by climate change, record temperatures and rapid ice melt. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we’ve experienced unprecedented flooding in areas where flooding was never anticipated.
So, do you still think that climate change is a myth? If not, have you considered what you can do to help mitigate the situation around you?
Thankfully, T&T has a champion, a ‘super-shero’ of sorts in our midst in the form of Racquel Moses, who is focused and determined to help change the current effects on the environment and on economies as well.
Moses, a wife and mother of two girls, is currently the CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator. Prior to that, she worked as the President of InvesTT, and was head of Public Sector for Microsoft.
A graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, Moses said management of Information Technology (IT) is her “passion”, which is why she built a career on that basis.
Now, how does one segue from working for companies like Microsoft to be a driving force of climate awareness?
Moses said when she had her daughter in 2018, she was already developing a greater consciousness of climate change. Six months after giving birth, she saw an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which gave a gloomy forecast of the climate.
Moses said she knew then that she had to get involved but didn’t know just how yet. As God would have it, a friend of hers approached her about working at the Accelerator and if she would consider putting her hat in the ring to lead it.
According to Moses, whether she was hired or not, she had already made up her mind that she was not going to sleep until the issues raised in the IPCC report were figured out. Luckily for us, the job became hers.
Role of Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator
So, what exactly is the function of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, which covers over 28 countries and is registered as a charity in Barbados?
Moses said: “My job is primarily about matching projects with philanthropic funding and there are a couple of ways that we do that. One, you can apply on our website if you have a project that needs funding.
There are different types of funding – there is grant funding available, loan funding and investment funding – to bring a climate smart project to fruition.
“Let’s say you have a new way of doing agriculture, are putting in renewables or are finding ways to be more energy efficient, or even developing a new kind of biofuel. We help projects like that and match them with customers or match them with funding and we do that through a number of different initiatives we have, our financial advisory committee and investor forums as examples.”
Moses said they are also project nominators for particular grants, so all those things are done to help bring a project to fruition, by matching them with the resources that they need whether money, technical support, or project preparation facilities.
She revealed that currently, the company is working with National Energy on establishing a solar assembly facility in Trinidad, as well as a regional project to create a green hydrogen export market.
“We are also working with the Caribbean Development Bank to establish a $200 million fund for renewable energy projects, while also working with Partanna, a company out of the Bahamas to build carbon-negative housing in the Caribbean,” just to name a few.
Issues in Trinidad and Tobago
Working in such a field, Moses has a better view of the issues plaguing T&T. For starters, she said: “T&T is not energy efficient at all.”
“There is a huge opportunity for us not only to save money and save the natural gas that we are using to create electricity, but also to understand what the future requires, rather than wasting energy.”
“Here in T&T, I know we collect a lot of recyclables, but I don’t know if we’re doing very much with that recycling, which is a huge opportunity if we get it right.”
“We have such a strong history with all that we’ve done in oil and gas, we can use some of that talent and skill to design new products and solutions like bioplastics.”
Moses said: “Our company worked with a local entrepreneur recently who is working on a project to dissolve oil-based products, so we have some really great talent and even greater stakeholders like the International Development Bank (IDB), World Bank and the European Union (EU), that have a vested interest in T&T’s success in building out a more resilient, diversified economy, based in future of energy.”
“I think there are lots of opportunities for us, but we here in T&T move slower than we should.” In terms of what can be done on the level of government, Moses said: “We are the government.”
“The people who are making the decisions have been voted in by us and we need to understand the power that we have as voters. They do what we require them to do and if we perceive the government as not doing enough, then it is our responsibility to help them prioritise or to empower people who will.”
Moses heaped praises on the current Planning and Development Minister, Pennelope Beckles, whom she described as a champion for climate action, not just in the region, but certainly on a global scale.
“We were with her at COP 27 (UN Climate Change Conference), and she is so accessible and willing to engage, sharing stories about Trinidad and Tobago and empowering youngsters to speak in a room where they would typically not have access. So, we need to empower the champions that we have so that they have the ability to represent us in that way in the future.”
The COP experience
With two COPs under her belt, we asked Moses to describe that experience and her words were simply: “mind-blowing” and “eye-opening.”
“There is an energy there as just about everybody cares about climate action,” she said. “Behind the scenes last year, we were able to connect our projects to potential investors and that is essentially the bigger picture of COP. It’s not so much what happens on the main stage, but what happens behind the scenes.”
“It is THE space to connect on all things climate, so that makes it a very valuable platform for us. Laws are being changed, you’re getting legal opinion, you’re getting people connecting over funding projects, you’re getting people collaborating towards new solutions and you’re getting major decisions made on how funding is allocated, and all of those things happen in and around COP.”
Moses is already in planning for COP 28 later this year in Dubai. “I am a UNFCCC Global Ambassador, so when I attend, I am not just representing the Accelerator, I am also representing all Small Island Developing States.”
“For instance, at the last COP our job was advocating for Loss and Damage and getting those involved to agree to create a facility for loss and damage.” Loss and Damage refers to the negative consequences that arise from the unavoidable risks of climate change, like rising sea levels, prolonged heatwaves, desertification, the acidification of the sea and extreme events, such as bushfires, species extinction and crop failures.
“This year’s challenge, is how do we operationalise Loss and Damage at COP28.”
But before COP, climate-aware individuals such as Moses will be looking at this year’s #beatplasticpollution campaign, which is the theme of World Environment Day, which was celebrated on June 5.
The focus on solutions to plastic pollution comes as the world is being inundated by plastic. More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, half of which are designed to be used only once.
Solutions to Plastic Pollution
Moses lamented the situation caused by plastic pollution. However, she said there are solutions. She said the Accelerator is collaborating with a company out of Costa Rica, CRDC Global, that has designed a process that turns plastic waste into a resin that can be used to strengthen concrete.
Moses said they are hoping to see this brought over to T&T. “What we need is an investor who is interested in taking that plastic waste and turning it into that resin. There are factories popping up all over the place doing this… in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Costa Rica, and South Africa.”
“What I’d like is for T&T to not be left behind and embrace solutions like this,” said Moses. “The process isn’t just chucking plastics into concrete just for the sake of hiding the plastic. Yes, we need to figure out a way to get rid of it, but it also improves the insulation and the water resistance of the concrete when you use that plastic resin.”
She said T&T needs to be innovative and needs to embrace innovation.
“We need to shed any insecurities that lead us to be followers and not leaders. I would love to see the next Caribbean factory established here in T&T and that’s one of the things that we’re working on trying to get investors to the table to do.”
But is this all too late for us, based on the doom and gloom of some scientist? Moses said we can turn things around. “I think it’s possible and what I want to feel is that it’s probable.”
“At this time, I feel like we will hit a tipping point. I hear far more people talking about climate action than ever before and I also see far more people working on solutions. But it’s so easy to forget. We have to keep the pressure on to make sure we’re focused on not what we’re trying to avoid but trying to achieve.”
“We’re trying to achieve a really healthy natural environment that works for all of us, where we’re economically resilient because we’ve developed new solutions and exporting these solutions to the US and the EU…where we are exporting plastic bags made from coconut husks to New Zealand, where we’re doing things in a more sustainable way and serving as an example of how that can be done.
“I want to see us living healthy and guilt-free, eating properly and the food is grown locally wherever possible. But we need to all be saying the right things and following it up with actions.”
“I think on a nationwide scale, communication needs to be improved. Government needs to take action beyond talking. For instance, T&T had been talking about the plastic ban before many other Caribbean islands had even started having talks. Now, most of the islands that started the conversation after us have now implemented a ban on single use plastics and we’re still talking.”
“If we claim to be leaders, we cannot just talk about these things, we have to walk the talk. On the important things for us to keep in mind is that in climate action, economic opportunities exist, and T&T stands the most to gain. Our history in energy and local talent places us well to be the nexus of the future of energy. We cannot then, relinquish our moral authority by not doing the simple things.”
Determined to help the change
While many may get frustrated, Moses said she is focused and wakes up every day ready to fight for the cause. She said there is a multi-billion, potentially trillion-dollar market that is being created with the solutions that are necessary and T&T needs to get onboard or be left behind.
“If we don’t get involved, we will lose the opportunity to create new solutions, to sell products, to determine who are the winners in the future and I think that is really important.”
“Yes, it’s about avoiding catastrophe, but that’s the least of it. This is an economic opportunity like none before. The way that we build homes, plant and consume food, use goods, conduct business will all change.
All of these things will be impacted by climate change and hopefully be done in a more resilient fashion, and we want to be those people who are selling those solutions.”