Emerging collective call for fossil fuel free Pacific

Photo: Fiji Government

As Pacific Ministers wrap up their three-day dialogue in Port Vila today, there’s strong calls for a fossil fuel free Pacific – and a push to transition away from oil and gas and explore safe and sustainable renewable energy sources suitable for the Pacific. 

Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance and one of the conveners of the ministerial dialogue is happy with the engaging discussion and positive responses from Fiji, Marshall Islands, Niue, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – countries represented at the dialogue. 

“There a strong support and acknowledgement about phasing out of fossil fuels as part of the solution to obtaining the 1.5 degree, which has been called for by UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. 

He said Ministers also agreed to declare a fossil fuel free Pacific – an ambitious long term goal that all Pacific Island Countries should try to be working towards. 

“Obviously there are a lot of work that needs to be done. We will need to develop our own national strategy and consider a regional one too that prepares our countries to just transition away from fossil fuels. That would map out a way forward in terms of achieving that fossil fuel phase out. 

At the dialogue there was a proposal to reach out to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for financial and technical support to set up a new regional hub on cutting edge technology for renewable energy.  

“This is something to take it up to IRENA to provide that support – to have a regional centre of excellence specifically looking at appropriate and suitable technology for the Pacific in terms of renewable energy, said Minister Paeniu. 

IRENA’s Small Island Developing States representative, Arieta Gonelevu reaffirmed the Agency’s commitment to providing tailored solutions to address the unique needs and conditions of SIDS noting that its Lighthouses Initiative supports the island nations with implementation, technical assistance, capacity building, policy and regulatory advice, project bankability, facilitation and access to finance, transport, and other end-use sectors.  

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General, Henry Puna who recently attended IRENA’s Small Island Developing States Ministerial meeting in January this year suggested that ministers approach IRENA individually with a proposal for support to just transition. 

“The quickest way is to get each individual member states to submit a proposal and request to IRENA for technical assistance so IRENA can come and do the work in country, said Henry Puna. 

In terms of advancing the outcomes from the Ministerial dialogue to higher level consultation, Puna suggested that initiatives that need political will and leadership are fed into the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in October this year. 

“I was in Doha recently and the incoming President of COP28, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, expressed his interest to be in Rarotonga for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting there. The UNFCCC Secretary General, Simon Stiell is also keen to be in Rarotonga – so it will be a perfect time to raise these issues and engage directly with them in Cook Islands, said Puna. 

“Outcomes from the three days’ ministerial dialogue will feed into the upcoming regional ministerial meetings including the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting in late October in Rarotonga, where we hope the political decision will be taken to support this move away from fossil fuels 

“We are hoping the rest of Pacific countries will take this necessary action to move their dependence on oil, gas and fossil fuel sources and be part of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and throw their support behind groups like the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), said Minister Paeniu.