AT 8.30pm today, green advocates will turn off their lights and non-essential appliances for an hour, perhaps longer, as an illustration of energy saving in commemoration of earth hour.
What started as an idea between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 is now a worldwide movement spanning, at last count, 152 countries and territories.
"Earth hour is a timely reminder that we are all inter-dependent and equally responsible for the health of our planet.
"Like an ailing body without medical intervention, an ailing planet will not be able to sustain a good quality of life if we do not act individually and collectively, to slow down and ultimately reverse the effects of climate change," says Fiji Development Bank's chief executive officer Deve Toganivalu.
A strong advocate for sustainable energy sources, FDB has in the last year taken steps to improve its own green business practices as well as its green portfolio.
To this end, in June last year, the bank started by replacing the traditional 36 watt fluorescent lights at its Suva premises with 18 watt energy saver magnetic fluorescent lights.
In addition, all thermostats for the head office building air conditioners have been set at 25 degrees Celsius to ensure comfort and uniformity in temperature levels throughout so as to prevent loss of energy.
Set on timers, the ACs come on at 8am and cuts off promptly at 5pm during the working week.
These simple energy efficient steps have saved the bank on average, $771.80 per month in electricity costs.
"That is a savings of close to $10,000 a year.
"For any business that has a monthly bill in the four digits, this is a significant saving.
"We will during the course of this year also look at doing the same for our 11 branches.
"This is us thinking globally and acting locally," Mr Toganivalu said.
In 2010, FDB introduced a sustainable energy financing facility (SEFF) for farmers and businesses keen to adopt sustainable energy sources given the impact surging fuel prices have had on the cost of goods and services.
To give you an idea of our fuel import bill, in 2005 Fiji's fuel imports stood at $784m.
Five years later this climbed to $1.1billion and $1.17billion in 2011 of which our only grid power provider accounted for 11 per cent or $137.88m (Fiji Electricity Authority annual report for 2011) of imports.
As more renewable energy projects come online for FEA, we can expect to see a drop in Fiji's annual fuel imports.
The commissioning of the Nadarivatu hydropower plant last year is a positive step in reducing not only the cost of imports but also our carbon footprint.
As the remaining consumers we need to start making a change to our personal consumption patterns.
If you haven't already noticed, the introduction of a two cent green tax on certain petroleum products this year is cause for pause.
Government in its 10-point economic plan by 2020 outlined an ambitious goal: To convert up to 90 per cent of all electricity generated from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources.
As a country abundant with renewable energy sources — sunlight, water and coconut oil — this is not an entirely lofty goal.
With the availability of SEFF through FDB, loans can be facilitated for the installation of solar, hydro or energy efficient projects.
Additionally, the production of coconut oil based fuel can also be facilitated particularly where nearby villages and communities nearby use diesel fuel for their generators.
Government's support for the proliferation of bio-diesel plants in the outer islands is also commendable in this regard.
As an inducement to take on SEFF, FDB has access to a 50 per cent guarantee by the World Bank for sustainable energy projects approved by the Department of Energy.
Those interested in pursuing this facility and the guarantee has until June 30, 2017 to meet the guarantee commitment period.
Under this provision all loans have to be repaid by December 31, 2017.
To further encourage uptake, FDB also has access to the RBF's import substitution and export finance facility (ISEFF), which as at 1 March saw a reduction in the interest rate to five per cent from six per cent repayable over five years.
Of the $80m allocated by RBF for ISEFF, FDB loans to sustainable energy projects comprise 3.6 per cent of all loans given under this facility.
Lending to sustainable energy projects by FDB presently comprise 12 accounts that make up one per cent of the bank's total loan portfolio.
This is expected to reach 2 per cent of total portfolio later this year as per Reserve Bank of Fiji directive in 2012 to financial institutions lending to the renewable energy sector.
In addition to financing sustainable energy projects as part of our green portfolio, FDB also finances the only wastepaper recycler in not just Fiji, but also the Pacific.
Started a year ago, this company collects old telephone directories, newspapers and waste office papers and recycles the paper into toilet issue.
As a supplier of office paper waste to the company, the bank saves $180 per month in disposal costs.
"By financing entities such as wastepaper recycling, we are not only helping provide a solution to Fiji's wastepaper problem but encouraging other like-minded entrepreneurs to step forward and be part of the green solution to Fiji's waste management problem," Mr Toganivalu said.
According to a paper on Economic Opportunities in Waste Management in SIDS (Small Island Developing States) presented at the CSD Inter-sessional Conference on Building Partnerships for Moving Towards Zero Waste held in Tokyo, Japan in February 2011, Prof Al Binger noted that in 2000, the total waste produced per person in Fiji, totaled 146kg annually.
Of this,about 10 to 15 per cent was waste paper.
If we are to extrapolate that to the population of 837,217 (FIBOS-2007), based on a proportionate growth of eight per cent from 1996 (775,077-FIBOS), that is a staggering 158kg of waste per person in 2007 of which, paper waste would account for about 16 to 24kg per person.
"We cannot be complacent in how we do and view business.
"If we are to have a business to operate and/or finance in the future, we have to adopt sustainable business practices internally as well as advocate the same for businesses that we finance," Mr Toganivalu said.
As a development financing institution, no one understands risk better than FDB.
With 51 per cent ($42.80m) of all agricultural loans in Fiji (RBF, 2012) held by FDB alone, the impact and effects of climate change reaches a little closer to home.
Agriculture is the most vulnerable sector for any investor because of the vagaries of market forces, pests, diseases and fluctuating weather patterns exacerbated by climate change.
For a small Pacific Island nation, maintaining food security is critical to our survival and maintaining a reasonable cost of living, a living that is not inflated through high imports as many of our neighbours have found to their detriment.
As an illustration of how climate change exposes our small island state vulnerability, consider the damage assessment bill for 2012 as a result of two floods and a cyclone — $90m (floods) and $71.06m (Tropical Cyclone Evan) of which $33.90m was loss attributed by the agriculture (non- sugar) sector following Tropical Cyclone Evan.
Earth hour is a stark reminder of a bleak future if we do not reduce our consumption habits and innovate to find solutions to our most pressing environmental problems.
In the words of Nobel laureate, economist Amartiya Sen, "a fouled environment in which future generations are denied the presence of fresh airâ€¦will remain foul even if future generations are so very rich."
It all starts by turning off a switch.
* Sylvia Low is the manager customer relations and business development at the Fiji Development Bank.