Sustainable Energy – Low carbon economy in small islands not just an option, it is the only way

For the Cook Islands, located in the South Pacific, transformation of the energy sector through the development and deployment of renewable energy resources and technologies is not, “just an option.” According to The Honourable Henry Puna, Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Renewable Energy of the Cook Islands, “it is the only way.”

The Prime Minister was addressing delegates attending the recently concluded High-Level Conference on Achieving Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Rio+20 Informal Ministerial Meeting, in Barbados, from May 7-9, 2012, co-hosted by the Government of Barbados and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In his presentation, the Prime Minister said that in 2011, the Cook Islands spent USD 15 million or 15 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on energy imports with electricity costing USD 2.50 per unit, one of the highest costs per unit in the world. In Barbados, with the best case scenario of the application of solar water heater usage and over 90 per cent penetration, Prime Minister The Honourable Freundel Stuart noted that Barbados’ tourism sector accounts for almost 10 per cent of fossil fueled electric consumption, and that his country is hoping to reduce the cumulative cost of fossil fuel from USD 2.6 billion to USD 1.9 billion, per annum.

SIDS DOCK, a Sustainable Energy Initiative developed in 2009, and established in July 2011, has similar goals to the SE4All, which were articulated in the Secretary-General’s Conference Opening Address, read by Mrs. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative; “Small Island Developing States need to free themselves from dependence on fossil fuel imports and transform their energy sectors to encompass modern, efficient, clean and renewable sources of energy.”

This was the overriding theme of the conference – the need for transformation, as delegation after delegation spoke of worsening energy situationsamidst crippling debt – ranging from high and volatile prices, lack of access, unaffordability, and inadequate technical capacity, while at the same time speaking of progress made in developing energy policies and programmes put in place as they try to decrease the amount of scarce foreign exchange used to purchase petroleum fuel for the provision of more than 90 percent of primary energy.

Many small islands have made genuine ambitious commitments and have independently developed energy policies and strategies geared toward transformation to a low carbon economy; the challenge is to mobilize the resources – human, financial, material, media and other resources – to help those countries meet the ultimate goal of the SIDS DOCK: to increase energy efficiency by 25 percent (2005 baseline) and to generate a minimum of 50 percent of electric power from renewable sources and a 20-30 percent decrease in conventional transportation fuel use by 2033.

The 30 small islands that are members of SIDS DOCK joined other members of the United Nations (UN) in declaring their support for the UN Secretary-General’s SE4All Initiative and recognized the important opportunities that exist within the Initiative for the advancement of the purposes of SIDS DOCK. Support for SE4All is reflected in the Decisions of the SIDS DOCK National Coordinators Meeting, held during the conference.

SIDS DOCK, with support from its dynamic Partnership with the Governments of Denmark and Japan, the UNDP, the World Bank and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and with potential opportunities afforded through the SEF4All, is committed to helping SIDS achieve not just a sustainable energy sector but sustainable development for all.

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