PACIFIC ISLANDS INSPIRING LEADERSHIP IN RENEWABLE ENERGY
Bonn, Germany, Monday 6 2017: During a side event held by Solar Head of State (SHOS) and the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) on the first day of COP23, the Pacific region’s advances in renewable energy took the spotlight. The event in the Fiji Pavilion featured speakers from the governments of Tonga, Niue, Tokelau and Palau and representatives from Greenpeace and ClimateWorks Australia to discuss the various successes of renewable energy in the region and transformative solutions, and the benefit it is bringing to residents.
This side event was intended to assist Fiji’s vision for a Pacific COP and demonstrate that the Pacific Islands are central to forming the Grand Coalition needed to fight climate change, as the voice of moral leadership. The event also highlighted the ambition of Pacific SIDS for surpassing their emissions targets and demonstrating climate leadership with renewable energy.
In a symbolic move to showcase the island nation’s ambitious goals, Tonga announced the installation of solar panels for the Royal Palace as part of the Solar Head of State program. The installation will be the first of its kind in the Pacific as a national leader takes the personal step to use solar power for their official residence. The Tongan King will also become the world’s first monarch to use solar power, sending the message that Buckingham Palace should perhaps follow suit.
“We have been tasked by Pacific leaders in their support of the Paris Agreement to pave the paradigm shift to a low carbon future. And Pacific countries and territories have shown interest in this project to facilitate the installation of solar energy infrastructure to power residences of Heads of state and in some cases Parliament buildings across the islands” , said PIDF Secretary General François Martel.
Secretary General Martel said that the installation of panels on the national Leader’s official residence is symbolic of the wider leadership on renewable energy by SIDS, and will serve as physical embodiment of Pacific Leadership’s commitment to fighting climate change.
“Noting the PIDF Leaders’ concerns on the impacts of climate change and their support for the Paris Agreement, renewable energy is playing a key role in shaping the planets long term energy future and is critical to delivering policy goals of secure, clean and affordable energy supplies” he further added.
The Pacific continues to demonstrate strong leadership by virtue of its ambitious renewable energy goals, including Tonga’s aim to reach 50% renewable energy by 2020. This includes a landmark 2MW solar PV system commissioned last month, the largest of its kind in the country.
Solar Head of State Director James Ellsmoor said, “our model draws attention to renewable energy through highly visible solar installations on public buildings and associated public engagement strategies such as competitions for students and community events. High profile installations on buildings such as the Royal Palace highlight the economic, environmental and political importance of the use of renewable energy.”
The leader of the Tongan Delegation, Paula Ma’u, signed an agreement at the event to work with Solar Head of State and the Pacific Island Development Forum to carry out the installation.
Islands across the world are making headlines for ambitious renewable energy projects. The Pacific nation of Tokelau became the world’s first country to be 100% solar powered in 2012 by launching a pioneering project to ditch its diesel habit and this was 4 years before the Paris Agreement’s pledges.
Fiji’s leadership of COP23 is a first for SIDS, and an opportunity to demonstrate the very really threats faced by these nations. Events highlighting the ambition of Pacific SIDS are a useful strategy for these nations to demonstrate that despite their low carbon emissions, they are showing moral leadership when it comes to the issue of climate change.