US-Cuba hold historic Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Working Group

renewable-energyHAVANA,Dec. 18, The US Department of State says delegates from the United States and Cuba discussed regional developments related to clean energy during the first Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency WorkingGroup held here last week.

The delegates also exchanged ideas and information on how the United States and Cuba can move forward on this shared interest; they shared information about domestic and international energy policies, and established a meeting framework for future collaboration.

According to the State Department, the working group was jointly proposed and agreed to at the US-Cuba Economic Dialogue on September 12 in Washington, D.C.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Working Group is made up of officials from the United States Department of State and Department of Energy, and officials from Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, Ministry of Foreign Relations, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Ministry of Industry.

Earlier this month, the United States and Cuba held the fifth Bilateral Commission meeting in Havana, Cuba.

Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte led the US delegation while the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for US Affairs, led the Cuban delegation.

The State Department said the United States and Cuba reviewed the achievements of the Bilateral Commission since diplomatic relations were re-established in July 2015.

The Commission has “prioritized and sequenced” a number of bilateral initiatives since its first quarterly meeting in November 2015.

Both countries have now established dialogues on law enforcement, claims, human rights, and economic and regulatory issues, and have continued biannual Migration Talks.

The Bilateral Commission has provided a framework to address trafficking in persons and the return of fugitives, as well as to schedule technical exchanges on law enforcement and environmental issues.

In the last 18 months, the State Department said the United States and Cuba concluded 11 non-binding agreements, including Memoranda of Understanding on health, cancer research, agriculture, environmental cooperation, hydrography, marine protected areas, counter-narcotics, federal air marshals, civil aviation, and direct transportation of mail.

In the coming weeks, the United States and Cuba expect to sign agreements formalizing cooperation on law enforcement, conservation, seismology, meteorology, search and rescue, and oil spill response protocols.

Under the Bilateral Commission, the United States and Cuba expanded educational and cultural exchanges. The number of Cubans studying in the United States increased by 63 per cent in academic year 2015-16, according to the State Department.

It said the delegations agreed the Bilateral Commission has provided a framework for discussion of a wide range of issues.

“Where US and Cuban interests align, including on counter-narcotics, health and environmental issues, the United States and Cuba have made important strides for the benefit of both peoples,” the State Department said. “Where the two countries have disagreements, including on human rights, the United States and Cuba have articulated those differences in a clear, productive, and respectful manner.

It said the dialogues and working groups that fall under the Bilateral Commission framework have allowed the United States and Cuba to establish working relationships with counterparts, “which are essential to continued bilateral cooperation, advancement of US interests, and progress toward normalization.”

The State Department said the US looks forward to hosting the next Bilateral Commission Meeting in Washington, D.C. “at the earliest opportunity.”