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Pacific region takes spotlight at COP23

Avinesh Gopal
Thursday, November 09, 2017

THE Pacific region's advances in renewable energy took the spotlight during a side event held by Solar Head of State and the Pacific Islands Development Forum on the first day of COP23 in Germany.

A statement from PIDF said 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.

It said the 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 (Small Island Developing States) 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, the PIDF statement said.

"We have been tasked by Pacific leaders in their support of the Paris Agreement to pave the paradigm shift to a low carbon future," said PIDF secretary general Francois Martel.

"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."

Mr Martel said the installation of panels on the national leader's official residence was symbolic of the wider leadership on renewable energy by SIDS, and would 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 said.

According to the PIDF statement, the Pacific continues to demonstrate strong leadership by virtue of its ambitious renewable energy goals, including Tonga's aim to reach 50 per cent 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," he said.

The leader of the Tongan delegation, Paula Ma'u, signed an agreement at the event to work with Solar Head of State and the PIDF 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 per cent solar powered in 2012 by launching a pioneering project to ditch its diesel habit and this was four years before the Paris Agreement's pledges, said the PIDF.

Furthermore, it said Fiji's leadership of COP23 was a first for SIDS, and an opportunity to demonstrate the very real threats faced by these nations.

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