Pacific leaders took centre stage at an international conference on renewable energy to reiteraite calls for implementation rather than just talk about switching to cleaner and greener sources of energy.
Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga led the charge by telling delegates that if a small nation like his could work on dramatically reducing its carbon footprint although its contribution to the global greenhouse gas emission is “miniscule, ” then the bigger and wealthier economies could do so too.
“The message from the latest IPCC report on 1.5 degree is very clear,” Prime Minister Sopoaga told a Small Island Developing States dialogue in the lead up to the 9th general assembly of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency that begins in the capital of the United Arab Emirates later today (12 Jan).
“There is urgency for the whole world to reduce emissions. There’s no plan B. There shouldn’t be any plan B to play around with this demand. It is a necessity, this is imperative if we are to save SIDS and save the whole world from climate change.”
The leader of Tuvalu insisted that renewable energy could not be discussed in isolation from climate change. The two matters he said, are inter-connected. The tiny Pacific island nation is for example well on its way of reaching its target of 100 per cent powered by solar energy by 2025.
Sopoaga said electricity is now accessible to 100 per cent of the population of Tuvalu, and 25 per cent of them already sourced their power from the sun.
The need to go for clean, renewable energy was reiterated by other Pacific leaders that spoke at the IRENA SIDS session. President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati, to Tuvalu’s immediate northern neighbor said his island nation contributed 0.0002 per cent of total global carbon emissions.
Though “negligible,” Maamau said Kiribati is still doing its part in moving away from fossil fuel to energy that is renewable. The diesel generator that powers 7.01 MW in the capital Tarawa costs US$6m annually to operate.
Under its eight-year energy roadmap that was drawn up with support from IRENA, President Maamau said his administration is working towards reducing fossil fuel reliance by 45 per cent and 60 per cent in Tarawa and Christmas Island respectively by 2025.
Cook Islands is also progressing well in its goal of going 100 per cent on renewable energy by 2020, with Prime Minister Henry Puna informing delegates that his island nation has already achieved 80 per cent of the goal.
Fiji’s new minister for energy Jone Usumate outlined Fiji’s efforts of pursuing its 100 per cent renewable energy goal. Through IRENA support, three government centres of Lakeba, Kadavu and Rotuma are powered through hybrid energy – a mix of solar and diesel.
Minister Usumate also raised the challenge of maintaining solar energy, storage and the need for trained locals to make the switch from fossil to clean energy sustainable.
Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa also gave an update on her island nation’s target of reaching 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy by 2025. Minister Fiame will also present the SIDS Dialogue’s outcomes to the plenary of IRENA that officially opens at the capital of the UAE later today.
The world agency on renewable energy says more than 120 ministers and delegates from 160 countries are in Abu Dhabi for the four-day high level discussions, aimed at accelerating renewable energy deployment that supports sustainable development goals and global climate objectives.
“The Assembly is taking place against a backdrop of falling cost of renewable energy, a growing recognition of its socio-economic benefits and calls for greater action to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” IRENA said in a statement it released this week.
“In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report highlighted that the world has just 12 years left to take decisive action on climate mitigation and called for a rapid and far-reaching energy transformation based on renewables. According to IRENA analysis, renewable energy deployment must accelerate by a factor of six to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year, the Assembly will be presided over by H.E. Mr. Li Fanrong, Vice President of China’s National Energy Administration.”