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PACIFIC Leaders presented a united stance on the pressing need for accelerated and ambitious global action on climate change as they joined world leaders recently for the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Leaders spoke passionately on behalf of our island communities, with Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama, who assumes the Presidency of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November, reiterating that at present “climate change is as great a threat to global security as any source of conflict.” Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill spoke of lost lives and devastated communities, of humanity’s future threatened, and the absolute need for reduced emissions if we are to effectively address challenges posed by a warming planet.
Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, reflected on island communities already at the risk of being submerged, who face losing everything, if the world fails to achieve the “well below 2 degrees Celsius” of global warming advised by scientists.
THE mean sea level recorded at Fiji’s tidal gauge shows an average rise of 4.6mm per year since 1993. That means sea levels would have risen an average 110 centimetres – about knee height of an adult - by 2017. At Vunidogoloa Village in Fiji’s Northern Division, Sailosi Ramatu points to the waters of Natewa Bay.
“That’s where the beach was when I was a kid,” he said, pointing the stump of a coconut tree, barely visible above the rising tide.“It’s about 100 metres away from where the shore is so in 40 years we’ve lost about 100 metres of beach front or 2.5 metres a year.” According to current estimates, a possible 45 villages in Fiji face a similar fate from the waves, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.
Churches, which continue to wield influence over indigenous Fijian communities, have a powerful role to play in convincing villagers on the need to move to higher ground. Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, recognises the powerful role the church must play not only in Fiji but across the region.
The Pacific Islands contribution in the creation of the man-made monstrous climate change may very well be equivalent to a drop in the ocean, but small developing states are leaving no stone unturned to combat the threat. Despite various challenges, countries have already begun work in meeting their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC).
The INDC refers to the greenhouse gas emission targets set under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) that applies equally to both developed and developing countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement. In this issue of Islands Business, we conduct country case studies, looking at actions taken by Fiji and Solomon Islands in the lead up to meeting its determined contributions, and challenges that they are experiencing, or would stumble upon.
ASSUMING the presidency of the UNFCC negotiations at COP23, and being the first country in the world to ratify the United Nations Paris Agreement, Fiji fully understands the pivotal role “green growth” plays in creating a sustainable economy.
WITH high vulnerability to climate change impacts, Solomon Islands has placed equal importance on mitigation and adaptation to reach their Nationally Determined Contributions. The country has committed to reduce emissions by 12 per cent below 2015 level by 2025 and 30 per cent below 2015 level by 2030 inevitably with a strong focus on the energy sector. Solomon Islands Acting Director Climate Change Division, Hudson Kauhiona, said one of the major and biggest projects under its belt was the Tina River Hydro Project that “should displace two thirds of all the diesel that is used for powering the whole of Honiara.”
“We are working very closely with energy and power utility here to extract clean energy and further national efforts towards a greener and cleaner economy,” he said. Tina River Hydro being the first largescale sustainable energy project in Solomon Islands has secured US$86 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to support the implementation of the renewable energy project. Of the GCF funding, US$70 million is a low-interest loan towards the cost of building the hydro power facility.
THE need for rural electrification is a major issue faced by Vanuatu, with around 75 per cent of the population living in rural areas without electrification. In that regard, the island is establishing a National Green Energy Fund (NGEF) that it hopes will not only assist in meeting the current Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), but will contribute towards national development.
The fund is a joint initiative launched by the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) and the Vanuatu Government, which is a National Financing Vehicle (NFV) aimed at accelerating financial flows to increase electricity access in off-grid areas. So the NGEF will be a tool to implement their National Energy Roadmap (NER) that has already been developed in conjunction with the World Bank and the GGGI.
The NER, which is the overarching document for the energy sector includes targets for the 100 per cent renewable energy, and is in line and supporting the NDCs. The GGGI’s Pacific regional representative, Katerina Syngellakis said the NGEF would focus on rural electrification, renewable energy an energy efficiency in furtherance of the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.