Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation halfway between Hawaii and Australia, declared on Sunday that it would shift it economy to 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Tuvalu has already installed a 40 kilowatt solar energy System with the aid of Kansai Electric Power Company and Tokyo Electric Power Company. The Tuvalu government wants to expand the $410,000 solar project to 60 kilowatts later this year by adding a $800,000, 46 kilowatt solar energy system at a secondary school. The Tuvalu government estimates it would cost more than $20 million to power the country on solar and wind energy.
“We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in those international negotiations,” Public Utilities and Industries Minister Kausea Natano said in a statement. “And we look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all — powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the wind.”
Tuvalu consists of four reef islands and five atolls, and is ten square miles (16 kilometers). Its highest point above sea level is 15 feet (4.5 meters), but most of Tuvalu is less than a yard above sea level. It is a country whose annual carbon dioxide emissions are only 0.4 ton per inhabitant, compared to an American’s 20 per ton. By committing to using only renewable energy by 2020, Tuvalu sends a powerful message to G8 countries.
“In a sense, they are paving the way for medium and larger economies which have to move if we are going combat climate change,” said Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme. “These smaller economies are out to prove you can do it, and do it faster than some people previously thought.”
“It is a message to the world about the urgent need to promote sustainable energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a massive scale,” said Johane Meagher, executive director of the e8, a group of G8 utility companies.
“The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early consequence of climate change,” said Takao Shiraishi, general manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co. “For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival.”