Oct 22, 2019 Last Updated 2:59 AM, Oct 16, 2019

Things fall apart

Tokelau calls for support

FOR close to 40 years the tiny island nation of Tokelau has been without a local meteorological service. That’s ever since New Zealand withdrew direct funding for the facility in the 1980s.

With the ever increasing threat of climate change, this remote state has made an urgent plea for donor support in order to strengthen its meteorological and climate related services. In an interview with Islands Business during the Second Pacific Ministerial meeting on Meteorology (PMMM-2), Minister for Climate Change, Natural Resources, Economic Development and Environment, Kelihiano Kalolo, stressed the Tokelau’s need for assistance.

“We need funding because we don’t have the infrastructure, we would like to give the information to our people, and we would like to have the infrastructure for the dissemination of information,” he said.

“Tokelau in any other country is very small without capacity and resource and we would like people to help us and the pacific to work together, after all, climate change is affecting all of us.” Alluding to Tokelau’s lack of climate service, information and documentation, Tokelau’s Manager for the Department of Economic Development, Natural Resources and Environment, Loia Tausi, told the Pacific Meteorology Council (PMC) meeting had laid out specific needs of the Tokelau meteorology services, calling on donors present in the room for support.

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FFA ministers endorse Atafu Declaration

Fisheries Ministers in the Pacific have endorsed moves they hope would lead to better management of the south Pacific albacore tuna fisheries both in their 200 miles exclusive economic zones and in the adjacent high seas. First steps were sealed in the remote coral atoll of Atafu in Tokelau last month at the 10th Pacific Fisheries Ministerial Meeting of island countries that are members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.

To be called the Tokelau Arrangement, the communiqué of the two day meeting resolved among others that limits on the allocation of “South Pacific albacore longline fishing opportunities in our Exclusive Economic Zones in a way that promotes the economic viability of the whole fishery, particularly in support of locallybased enterprises” should continue. It said this could involve a framework for the implementation of zone-based management across most of the range of the fishery.”

This proposed framework could be applied “by FFA members and non-FFA coastal territories,” and that it should also provide a mechanism “for improving coastal states’ rights over the disposition of fisheries in their own zones.” Allowing room for compromises, the Fisheries Ministers said in their communiqué that the “aspirations of coastal states and territories yet to develop south Pacific albacore fisheries in their EEZs” should be recognised. In addition to placing controls in their own EEZs, the Fisheries ministers felt that their efforts should be matched by long distant water fishing nations who join them as members of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) whose boats fish in both their EEZs and in the adjacent high seas.

“Taking this Declaration as evidence of our earnest resolve to establish a comprehensive south Pacific albacore management arrangement, to work together as a matter of urgency to develop a proposal to WCPFC11 for a Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) for South Pacific Albacore that would provide for a catch limit for the entire stock; take account of the EEZ-based fishing opportunities to be established under the Tokelau Arrangement; and place a limit on the high seas component of the fishery,” declares the communiqué of the 10th Pacific Fisheries Ministerial Meeting.

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Tokelau energy options

With almost all their electricity supply sourced from the sun, the 1,400 islanders of Tokelau are a living testament to what the Germanborn but English economist the late E F Schumacher advocated in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ in 1973. Dumping finite fossil fuel for solar energy is saving the island NZ$900,000 a year. It also earned the island territory New Zealand’s 2014 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority Award. 

Modern and appropriate technology is also driving Tokelau’s determination to have its own ship to provide the only transport link to the closest international sea and air ports in Samoa’s capital, Apia. The new 500 gross tonne boat will be equipped with kites to help power it, and at the same time cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent. Expected to cost NZ$20 million, the 60-passenger capacity vessel is under construction in a shipyard in Bangladesh. Like other islands in the Pacific, diabetes and the spread of noncommunicable disease is a concern on Tokelau - a non-self governing teritory of New Zealand. To address this, the territory banned Coca Cola and other fizzy drinks from all island stores.

Being an atoll, fresh water is scarce. Yet Tokelau wants all its inhabitants to have access to clean drinking water, and it’s more than halfway there. About 85 per cent of Tokelau’s operational budget is funded by Wellington. Yet in a model that has worked for the island, the position of Ulu o Tokelau (Chief/Leader of Tokelau) is rotated on an annual basis among the three head chiefs of Tokelau’s inhabited coral atolls of Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo. Each atoll has its own council of elders, or taupulega, presided over by a 21-member fono or parliament. The island that currently holds the Ulu o Tokelau becomes the territorial capital for the year.

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100% electricity from the sun

On 29 October, 2012, Tokelau became the first country in the world to be producing one hundred percent of its electricity from a renewable source—the sun. Tokelau’s three diesel-driven power stations now stand unused and peacefully silent across the three atolls of this Pacific island territory. SPREP commends the government and people of Tokelau for seeing through their long held vision for energy self-reliance, while, at the same time, doing their part as citizens of the global community in reducing the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Tokelau stands a beacon to the rest of the world in how to reduce a country’s carbon footprint. Commitments of this nature define the approach of developing “Pacific solutions to Pacific problems” as we strive to address the impacts of climate change on our island nations. Tokelau is a New Zealand administered territory, comprising three small atolls, situated some 600 kilometres northwest of Samoa. These three atolls are home to just over 1,400 Tokelauans.

The atolls are Fakaofo, the closest to Samoa; Nukunonu; and Atafu, the furthest atoll, situated northwest of the group. Prior to the advent of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (TREP), the inhabitants of these three atolls used fossil fuel (diesel) power generators for their electricity needs. A typical Tokelauan home consumes between 5 and 14 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per day, accounting for an average demand for the country of 150 kilowatts per day. Based on this approximation, Tokelau emitted 1,695 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per day when using diesel fuel for electricity generation. This translates to 620.5 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted by Tokelau in one year for power generation.

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