Technology Key to Emissions Cuts and Island Resilience

By George Uzice

This week delegates from around the world will meet in Bonn, Germany for the last five negotiating days before a once-in-a-generation United Nations climate change conference in Paris next month.

There are many issues in these complex negotiations, but one that is particularly important for my group, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of 44 small island and lower lying coastal nations from around the world, is technology.

After all, renewable energy and efficiency technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal power as well smart grids and transport systems are key to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

Scientists report that if the world does not reduce emissions drastically in the next few years, it maybe impossible to avert some of the worst climate impacts.

I can tell you that in my country, Seychelles, an archipelago about 1,600 km from the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, climate change has already arrived.

For example, our two main economic activities, fisheries and tourism, are now being affected by warming temperatures and acidifying oceans. At the same time, rising sea levels and coastal erosion are slowly creeping inland and impacting housing, roads and agriculture.

That means all countries, big and small, need to take action in earnest—a responsibility, Seychelles takes very seriously.

In fact, our windswept and sunsoaked Indian Ocean archipelago, the opportunities for renewable energy abound. But like other islands, we face specific constraints, such as a small and disperse population, geographic isolation, and a diminutive economy of scale.

Still, we are doing our part. For example, in 2013, 8-wind turbines were erected on Ile de Romainville and Ile du Port, with a total capacity of 6 MW. The wind farm is capable of powering 2,000 homes and is one of the first sites visitors see as their planes approach the Seychelles’ international airport.

Together with solar panels deployed across our 115 islands, we now generate about 4.5 percent of our energy from renewable sources and hope to raise that to 15 percent by 2030.

We want to do even more, however that will require support from our partners.

AOSIS and other developing countries have long argued that technology development and transfer are central part of addressing the climate change crisis and fortunately few would argue with this reality.

But realizing emissions reductions requires more than just transferring patents; above all, we need the finance necessary to bring promising technologies to scale. The GCF, World Bank, partners and other donors are already making important contributions to this effort.  However more resources are needed to address the full scale address this problem.

I have been attending the climate negotiations for almost a year now. In that time, I have witnessed some important progress, but it is not happening fast enough or bold enough to give islands like mine a fighting chance.

Above all, the Paris meeting must move the world from this incremental change and toward a cleaner energy future for everyone.

George Uzice is the Seychelles’ climate change fellow. The AOSIS climate change fellowship  program is funded by the European Union to build capacity within small island nations. The fellows are based in their respective New York missions and attend all UNFCCC sessions following a specific issue in the negotiations.