Niue’s Premier says complete phase out of fossil fuels ‘very hard’

(L-R) New Zealand DPM, Carmel Sepuloni and Niue Premier, Dalton Tagelagi in Rarotonga (Photo: Pacific Islands Forum)

Niue has nearly exhausted its climate mitigation options and its focus now is on adaptation, the island’s Premier Dalton Tagelagi says.

Tagelagi told RNZ Pacific that Niue’s contribution to global warming is one-thousandth of a percentage point (0.0001 percent) and they are already halfway to achieving their renewable energy target of 80 percent renewable by 2025.

He said Niue has already surpassed the United Nation’s global pact to protect 30 percent of its oceans biodiversity by 2030.

But he said his island was still not protected from the negative impacts of climate change.

“What else can we do to mitigate? We’ve gotten past that. We met most of the Sustainable Development Goals, we’ve met the biodiversity goals.

“We [are] in the conservation efforts now with our oceans conservation commitments to protect 40 percent – we have gone far beyond the call of 30×30 by 2030.

“If anything, we should be rewarded in a way in support…for adaptation in protecting the livelihoods of our people, safeguarding their homes and climate proofing the public infrastructure, and preparedness for any of these extreme events.”

He said global carbon polluters, such as the US and China, need to “lessen their reliance on fossil fuels”.

Niue is one of six Pacific nations that has adopted the Port Vila Call to spearhead a global fossil fuel phase-out initiative.

However, he said calling for the phasing out of fossil fuels was not realistic.

“It’s very hard at present time for us to call for the phasing out because we’re still going to rely on some kind of fossil fuel,” Tagelagi said.

Tagelagi said Niue will be relying on fossil fuels “for a little bit longer” even with the strides being made to transition to renewable energy sources.

“The best thing or the best call that everyone should be calling for is the lesser use of fossil fuel. That’s the reality of it…because if there’s no fossil fuel, and the renewable energy, say there’s no sun, what is your backup?

“At the moment, we haven’t quite had something tangible there that can be used as a backup.

“We still need fossil fuel, but the call would be to lessen the use of fossil fuel,” he said.

Responding to Niue’s position on Australia’s plans to host the UN’s climate change conference – COP31 – in 2026, Tagelagi said Australia would need to “share the COP with the Pacific”.

He said if Australia is successful in its bid, he would like to see “some high-level and side events” held in Pacific Island countries.

“We want our brothers and sisters outside of the Pacific to see what we have, showcase what have, to have a better perspective of how far we have to travel, and all the meetings are in their end. It takes a toll on our officials. He added Australia would also need “to lead by example and one of those is to lessen the use of fossil fuels.