Minister: Market among factors to determine transition to EVs

MINISTER with responsibility for the environment Senator Matthew Samuda says the Government may consider setting a timeline for the country’s full transition to electric vehicles, but that this depends on market supply, among other factors.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the Government has established a pattern of boldness in its investment policy decisions, but will not make unsustainable choices that will adversely impact the country. The minister was speaking on climate change issues at this week’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

He explained that the major issue which countries now face with the transition to electric vehicles, is whether the supply chain will be able to keep pace with demands. “My sense as of now is that it may not [but] we [the Government] are prepared to keep pace with greening our fleet, in line with the availability of said vehicles. If it becomes clear to the country by way of those who are commercially active in the car sector, or by way of international tends that can be widely accepted by stakeholders, [and] we can guarantee the availability, I’m sure we can guarantee the consideration,” he outlined, when asked if the Government would be bold enough to set a timeline for full transition to EVs, as some other jurisdictions have done.

Samuda stressed that the Government intends to green its fleet, and that this will be made clear over the next year, reflected in procurement exercises and projects which have been agreed with bilateral and multi-lateral partners.

In its drive towards zero emissions, the state of California in the United States recently set ambitious new targets for electric vehicles, with all new gas-powered vehicles to be banned by 2035.

In July, Jamaica’s finance and planning minister Nigel Clarke announced a further 20 per cent reduction on import duty rates for EV purchases, and a waiver of motor vehicle licence fees for the next five years. The reduction brought the import duties down to 10 per cent from 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, Samuda stressed that the Government has shown that it is willing to forego certain investments if they put the environment at risk, pointing to the then controversial proposed logistics hub investment by China Harbour Engineering in the protected Portland Bight/Goat Islands, which was eventually shelved in 2016 after months of sparring between Government, Opposition, environmentalists and other stakeholders.

“The prospective investment would have been in excess of US$3billion. Our foreign direct investments (FDIs) average is between US$500 and US$600 million, so were talking about an FDI that would have been six times our average FDI for the last 10 years. So we gave up six years of FDIs in a single project, because it was not environmentally sustainable in what was proposed,” he said.

Samuda pointed out that the Administration had also declined a proposed coal plant investment, which would have provided more than 900 megawatts of the approximately 1,100 megawatt electricity grid: “This would have significantly lowered the cost of energy. This, again, was an investment in your NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) to reduce emissions and in our environmental targets,” he said.

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