They seldom meet on the cricket or football fields, but the world’s small island developing states are informally competing with each other to be the first to ditch fossil fuels and embrace clean energy.
A new United Nations analysis of the most recent energy plans of 52 low lying poor countries – traditionally heavily dependent on imports of petrol and oil – shows the Caribbean island of Dominica leading the world with plans to become carbon “negative” by 2020. The Maldives is not far behind, hoping to be carbon neutral by 2020. Tuvalu and the Cook islands intend to generate all their electricity from renewables by 2020 and Timor-Leste, the poorest country in Asia, expects to provide solar electricity to all its 100,000 families by 2030.
With Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Mauritius and many other countries also volunteering to switch to solar, geothermal and wind energy, the collective target of the group of 52 small island developing states is a 45% cut in emissions in the next 18 years – considerably more than the world’s rich countries who between them have pledged 12-18% cuts by 2020.
“We are showing the world leadership,” said Dominican ambassador to the UN, Vince Henderson, at a UN development programme meeting ahead of next week’s reconvened climate talks in Bonn, Germany.
“This is about survival as well as economics. We are spending $220m a year importing fuel so it is in our interests. It is vested interests by the oil, coal and fossil fuel industries that is preventing rich countries meeting their obligations. We are demanding that all countries take their responsibilities.”
“Small island developing states can leap toward the goal of a poverty-free and prosperous future by changing their energy sectors,” said Barbados prime minister, Freundel Stuart. “We can rally the international community with a unified voice, sharing our aspiration to become fully sustainable.”
In a separate development, the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs) will propose on Monday what they call a “bold new plan” to help break the deadlock and speed up the UN climate talks. It is expected that the group, which sided with the EU in the final hours of the Durban climate summit last December, will press for a new body to negotiate a second protocol under the UN climate convention as well as accept 75% approval on decisions rather than the complete consensus of all countries.
“Countries agreed to complete negotiations by 2015, but such deadlines have been broken before,” said Pa Ousman Jarju, the chair of the LDC group. “Our countries cannot wait. We are already feeling the effects of climate change, but the time has come for us to be leaders in the international effort to address this global challenge.”
“The creation of a new body to negotiate a second protocol … represents an overdue acknowledgement by all parties that the climate convention and the Kyoto protocol alone are insufficient to drive action consistent with the ultimate objective of the convention,” said Jarju.