Renewable energy is having a hard enough time becoming mainstream on the mainland, but when small island developing states, or SIDS, decide to take energy matters into their own hands – by even adding coconuts to their portfolio – one has to wonder: what’s the hang up for larger countries?
Besides some of the obvious factors, the primary factor being islands have relatively small populations and therefore demand less energy, islands states, particularly tropical islands, come ripe with plenty of sunshine, ocean wind and, of course, coconuts. What do coconuts and coconut palms have to do with renewable energy? Well, coconut palms not only supply coconuts, which are a renewable food source, but are a “naturally recyclable source of a wide range of products, including transportation fuel, oil … and fiber.”
Kokonut Pacific, an Australian company, has tapped into this iconic island market and has been relatively successful at getting island nation states to make use of coconuts and coconut palms in a sustainable, low-impact way. SIDS are beginning to see a self-sufficient economy developing, one that combines a renewable energy portfolio with economic and environmental sustainability.
Bold action and creativity, while commendable, nevertheless fails to account for the fact that climate change does not operate in isolation, but impacts the globe aggregately. The carbon released in the Canadian tar sands, for example, will inevitably influence sea level rise in the Pacific Ocean and there’s not much a small island can do to abate that.
Dire predictions in mind, island nation states are serious when it comes to climate change and they should be; islands like the Maldives are predicted to experience devastating effects of global warming, including the shocking realization that their islands could soon disappear entirely under rising sea levels. The lowest country on Earth, the Maldives, are comprised of 1,200 islands, the highest reaching merely 5 feet above sea level. With a population of 320,000, President Mohammed Nasheed has been very vocal in expressing his concern over climate model predictions on his nation.
Coming together to express a collective concern, more than 100 heads of state, civil society activists, business executives, ministers, leading development experts and UN officials from nearly 40 SIDS recently attended the UN Development Program’s Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States conference. Culminating with the Barbados Declaration, a declaration that calls for “universal access to modern and affordable renewable energy services, while protecting environment, ending poverty and creating new opportunities for economic growth,” the governments of 20 SIDS agreed “to take actions toward providing universal access to energy, switching to renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.” Some highlights of the conference included:
- Maldives committed to achieve carbon neutrality in the energy sector by 2020
- Marshall Island aims to electrify all urban households and 95% of rural outer atoll households by 2015
- Mauritius committed to increasing the share of renewable energy – including solar power, wind energy, hydroelectric power, bagasse and landfill gas – to 35 % or more by 2025
- Seychelles committed to produce 15% of energy supply from renewable energy by 2030
SIDS face a more direct, immediate impact from climate change than do many other countries given their location. Fossil fuel imports are expensive, dangerous and unsustainable for these countries, making renewable energy not only a better option for the environment, but a more practical choice economically. Still, these countries cannot act independently — the international community must unite to address this concern and take the appropriate mitigation steps to ward off any and all mass devastation to these nations.
Climate change is real and is happening now. The effects can be seen on island states and also on other nations, like our own. Coastal cities like New York, New Orleans, Boston and San Francisco are predicted to experience sea level rise that will have a serious and significant impact on existing infrastructure and the current way of life. Further inland states like Texas and Oklahoma are in line to witness some of the driest conditions we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
Versatile, clean energy portfolios, along with reduced demand and efficiency measures, must be implemented today to combat climate change. As developed nations, we have a responsibility not to ignore the important action we must take today in order to ensure SIDS, as well as our own nation, prevent, mitigate, and inevitably adapt to a warming world.
Cross-posted from The San Francisco Energy Cooperative
Photo Credit: Abelson