There’s been a call for international donors to adjust their priorities and invest in sustainable sea transport to reduce the Pacific’s reliance on expensive and high-polluting fossil fuels.
Dr Peter Nuttall, head of the sustainable sea transport research program at the University of the South Pacific, says the region’s strategies for moving to a low-carbon economy appear to be ignoring the need to reform the maritime sector.
He says sea transport in the Pacific is facing a “looming crisis” due to the spiralling cost of fuel.
“For Pacific island communities and countries, shipping is an absolute lifeline,” Dr Nuttall told the ABC.
“For many small maritime communities, if you cannot get ships out to the islands, then those communities simply have no futures.”
But Dr Nuttall says the donor community has focused on funding renewable energy projects in the electricity sector but ignored the need to do the same in the shipping industry.
“We’re the most dependent region in the world on imported fossil fuel,” he said.
“Seventy per cent, maybe as high as seventy-five per cent, of all fossil fuel burnt in the Pacific today is burnt for transport.
“Many consultants (working for aid donors) come from a continental mindset where transport is the lowest user of energy and the whole concept that sea transport is critical is totally alien.”
Dr Nuttall says the maritime sector is ripe for investment in more sustainable methods of transport.
“There are a range of renewable energy technologies and there are a whole lot of things you can do with conventional diesel-powered ships or heavy fuel-powered ships to make them more efficient,” he said.
Dr Nuttall was one of the organisers of the second Sustainable Sea Transport Talanoa conference, held recently at the University of the South Pacific in Suva.
SUVA, (RADIO AUSTRALIA)