Demystifying the NAMA, a Caribbean perspective
27 Sep 2016 by James Vener, Mitigation Economist, UNDP
I was in Trinidad and Tobago recently as the country was gearing up for Carnival 2016. While I would have loved to be there to celebrate, my focus was on the country’s climate commitments and supporting the Government to develop a NAMA.
What exactly is a NAMA?
NAMAs, or Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, are the projects that countries undertake to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). This can include efforts to scale up markets for renewable energy products like solar home systems or to improve energy efficiency in buildings, which are responsible for about one-third of all global GHG emissions. As the Paris Agreement includes commitments from each country, NAMAs serve as a vehicle to help further these objectives.
Identifying and agreeing on what areas to reduce GHGs requires a great deal of planning. As it is, many countries face the challenge of having multiple competing – and complementary – project ideas for emission reduction. The foundation of a good decision-making process is therefore to have a sound strategy in place for comparing and prioritizing project alternatives. The Trinidad and Tobago strategy, for instance, includes how to evaluate various types of technologies, how to balance ambition with cost effectiveness, and how to increasingly integrate climate change into day to day policymaking.
The NAMA process is also shaped by current economic and political realities. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, a country whose economy largely rests on the strength of vast oil and gas exports, the oil crash had serious implications for decision making. With a national budget based on an oil price of US$40/barrel (during my January 2016 visit, it was at $30) and the oil and gas sector representing 40 percent of GDP, the country faced significant shortfalls in revenue and had to take tough fiscal decisions. Toward this end, the focus of Trinidad and Tobago NAMA strategic planning has looked towards alternative fuel solutions and an increased emphasis on energy efficiency.
Much like the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs, or climate targets) of the Paris Agreement, NAMAs are unique to each country and must be contextually appropriate. What works in one country does not necessarily work for another. At the end of the day, countries must decide upon their own development paths. Hopefully this can be done with a keen eye to reducing GHGs and limiting climate change.
Trinidad and Tobago’s NAMAs are nearing completion and will include nationwide action plans to upgrade the energy, oil and gas, and transportation sectors so less fossil fuel is consumed and fewer GHGs emitted. It is hoped that the NAMAs will stimulate development and investment in new, green areas of the economy while diversifying sources of energy and building a more modernized, efficient and safer transport system. For UNDP, our support has included lending technical expertise, helping guide the government NAMA selection process, and raising awareness of NAMAs as a potential avenue for mobilizing climate finance.
Coming up next, UNDP is supporting the local team to design data monitoring, reporting and verification systems to track such important development indicators as job creation and environmental and social benefits. The NAMA designs should be finalized later this year and be in a solid position to support the country’s ambitious climate goals.
Negotiating through the ‘alphabet soup’ of climate tools can be confusing (NDC, NAMA, National Adaptation Plans or NAPs, Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, etc.); however, there is a good likelihood these will be the instruments by which countries chart their progress against the Paris Agreement. For UNDP, a big part of our efforts is supporting these processes and helping to turn ambition into concrete action.
For the second year in a row, I had the extreme displeasure to leave Port-of-Spain just prior to Carnival. I did manage to leave, however, with more than enough Caribbean warmth and spirit to warm me through the cold New York winter and with the memory of Steel Drum bands pounding out hip-shaking rhythms late into the night.