Clean Energy Takes Center Stage in the Pacific

Two recent high-level events focused on clean energy in the Pacific, held in Tonga and New Zealand, offered a glimpse into the future of low-carbon development in the region.

The schedule of events in Tonga was designed to showcase what opportunities for clean energy technologies – be it wind, solar, thermal, and so forth – exist in different island contexts. The gathering in New Zealand assembled a collection of bankers, investors, and aid donors with access to the capital needed to bring the projects to fruition.

At both meetings it was clear that enthusiasm for renewable energy has reached a high point in the region, with a wide variety of economic sectors, and importantly political leaders, staunchly behind the initiative.

Over the past decade, the vast majority of funding for clean energy projects has been steered toward big developing countries, where comparatively larger gains can be made in emissions reductions.

But with most SIDS now spending an average of 10 percent of their entire budgets on imported fossil fuels, even modest investments in renewable energy have the potential to profoundly impact sustainable development, and can serve as testing grounds for bringing the technologies to scale elsewhere.

The New Zealand meeting got the Pacific region off to a good start, with estimates pointing to funding available for about half of the projects proposed.

Renewable energy, of course, is an AOSIS priority as articulated in the Barbados Declaration.

The next step, of course, is to help convert this momentum into the scale of global action needed to ensure all these places survive long enough to enjoy the promise of renewable energy long into the future.