Caption: A Kiribati woman cooks in an open fire.
Thursday 4 September 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji. Sustainable energy was one of the themes for the Multi-stakeholder Partnership Dialogue that took place at the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia yesterday. SIDS are faced with a double challenge: not only do they rely heavily on fossil fuel that is expensive and must be imported, but the use of that fuel releases greenhouse gases, which are the major cause of the effects of climate change to which SIDS are particularly vulnerable. However, while SIDS are spending billions of dollars annually importing fossil fuel, they are very well endowed with more economical and environmentally friendly renewable energy resources, which could be used to replace fossil fuel.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is the lead regional agency on sustainable energy in the Pacific Islands region. At the Dialogue, Solomone Fifita, Deputy Director (Energy) of SPC’s Economic Development Division, announced new, practical, simple, low cost, on-the-ground and people-centred sustainable energy partnerships that are aimed at addressing sustainable energy in an integrated manner. The partnerships link sustainable energy with other important issues, such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which have been declared an epidemic in the Pacific, and youth unemployment, a growing challenge.
Through the Bicycles for Capitals Partnership, for example, SPC, along with the governments of Nauru, Niue and Tuvalu, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, youth groups, the private sector, Life Cycle Pacific Task Force and development partners, will promote the productive use of bicycles to decrease vehicle congestion in the region’s capitals, reduce reliance on fossil fuel in the transport sector, and promote a healthy lifestyle that will contribute to the reduction of NCDs and empower youths through employment opportunities.
Mr Fifita noted that while it is heartening to see people riding bicycles in the major cities of the world – from Beijing to Tokyo, Bangkok, Vienna and even right at the front of United Nations Headquarters in New York – it is still rare sight in the Pacific Islands capitals.
Mr Fifita told the meeting that nearly seven out of every ten people in the Pacific SIDS still do not have access to electricity, with the lowest levels of access in the Melanesian countries of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – which have averages below 30%. The Melanesia’s Million Miracle Partnership between SPC, the departments of energy in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; non-govermental organisations (NGOs); women groups; the private sector; and the European Union-funded African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Business Climate Facility is aimed at bringing the miracle of electricity to one million people in Melanesia by 2020. In doing so, local NGOs and communities, particularly women, will be empowered with knowledge and skills to engage in income-generating activities and enterprises.
In describing the Cooking for Life Partnership, Mr Fifita acknowledged that cooking is a daily undertaking and that it requires energy. Unfortunately, the last remaining trees on the vulnerable coral atolls of Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu will be cut and used for firewood if no alternative is provided. Furthermore, women and children in particular are silently suffering in cooking environments filled with smoke from firewood and/or kerosene. The Cooking for Life Partnership between SPC, the governments, NGOs, women’s group, the private sector and development partners is about promoting the use of liquified petroleum gas and improved biomass stoves as cleaner and safer.
The United States of America, a founding member of SPC, announced a new partnership with SPC to provide specialised training on energy sector planning, regulation and renewable energy to its 22 island member countries and territories. The United Nations Environment Programme also announced a partnership with SPC to phase out inefficient lights in the region.