(SPC), Suva – This year marks the first year of the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. At the Pacific Regional Energy and Transport (Aviation and Maritime) Ministers’ Meeting in Nadi, Fiji, in April 2014, which was convened by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Ministers acknowledged the central enabling role of energy in sustainable development in a region where effective and efficient transport, especially maritime transport, underpins people’s lives.
The meeting agreed that ‘Transport for sustainable development’ must be included in the Pacific priorities to be submitted to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to be held in Samoa from 1 to 4 September 2014.
Energy is also an enabler of other critical aspects of development including electricity generation. But in the Pacific region, seven out of ten people, mostly in the larger Melanesian countries, still do not have access to electricity.
In Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, only 12%, 21% and 33% respectively of the population has access to electricity.
The overarching theme of the international SIDS Conference is ‘The sustainable development of small Island developing states through genuine and durable partnerships’. Sustainable energy is the focus of one of six plenary meetings that will take place at the conference.
It is also part of the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Dialogue that will run in parallel with the plenary meetings.
It is hoped that the partnership discussions will address factors such as financing, capacity building, technology transfer, technical cooperation and institutional development, which are all constraints for Pacific Island countries and territories seeking to achieve targets for renewable energy and investment, including by the private sector. Partnerships could also encourage efficiency incentives and access to innovation.
The region’s energy challenges include the cost of fuel imports. These are among the highest in the world, equivalent to an average of 10% of GDP in Pacific Island countries and territories in 2009. Despite the high cost, there is significant waste of energy, with average transmission and distribution losses of around 21% in 2010 and high consumption by energy inefficient appliances.
Acknowledging the challenges, Pacific Island Leaders endorsed the Framework for Action on Energy Security in the Pacific at the 41st Pacific Islands Forum in Vanuatu in 2010, committing to a renewable energy and energy-efficient future and to achievable, practical and voluntary targets. This commitment was further reinforced by the Leaders’ decision to endorse the national renewable energy and energy efficiency targets specified in the 2013 Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.
SPC, as lead coordinating agency on energy issues in the Pacific, provides support for the implementation of the framework through its Economic Development Division.
The SIDS Conference presents the Pacific region with a rare opportunity to influence the post-2015 development agenda dialogue and ensure that the unique challenges of the region are put forward on the global stage.