Pacific leaders discuss plans to break fossil-fuel reliance with major donors

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-3-25 14:35:01

Leaders from the Pacific island nations gathered in Auckland Monday with representatives of major international donor organizations to discuss how their nations can break free of their dependence on imported diesel to generate their electricity.

The tiny nation of Kiribati was one of the first to announce progress at the two-day Pacific Energy Summit with an agreement with the World Bank to deliver reliable solar energy to its 110, 000 people.

The project to be jointly funded by the Australian government and the Global Environment Facility was expected to reduce diesel fuel use in Kiribati by up to 230,000 liters a year, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Kiribati faces big challenges it is remote, it is at risk from the effects of climate change, and it is vulnerable to economic shocks," Kiribati President Anote Tong said in a statement.

"Shifting Kiribati's focus to reliable solar energy will provide a more secure, more sustainable power source for the country's people."

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key welcomed the delegates on Sunday, saying the summit was intended to connect Pacific island leaders and their energy plans with donor organizations and technical experts and businesses from the private sector.

More than 400 delegates and 100 companies are attending the event, which is jointly hosted by the New Zealand government and the European Union.

European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs last week announced new EU funding of 10 million euros (13.04 million US dollars) to boost access to sustainable energy for the poorest and most remote Pacific islands, bringing total EU funding to more than 100 million euros.

Piebalgs said in a statement that it was clear the Pacific island nations would see no development without sustainable and affordable energy.

The high costs of importing fuel resulted in a real lack of access to affordable and sustainable energy that disadvantaged about 46 percent of people in the region and considerably affected health, education and trade opportunities.

Most of New Zealand's Pacific neighbours should move close to achieving 50 percent of their electricity from renewable means as a result of the summit, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said last week.

Currently most Pacific countries delivered well under 10 per cent of their electricity renewably, with an overriding dependence on diesel generation.

"Despite years of rhetoric about climate change, Pacific nations have had too little practical assistance to make the most significant available improvement to both their environmental and economic circumstances: a shift from extremely expensive imported diesel to environmentally friendly renewable sources of electricity. In a region that possesses sunshine and wind in abundance, that is simply not good enough," McCully said in a statement.

Some countries such as the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu depended on imported diesel for over 95 percent of their electricity generation, while others had a strong base for renewable energy such as Vanuatu (19 percent mostly from wind) and Samoa (40 percent from hydropower) but still needed a concerted effort from the donor community to reach their potential.

In addition to most Pacific leaders, the summit is being attended by international donors such as the EU, Australia, Japan, China, the United Arab Emirates, the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, and the heads of international organizations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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