Statement by AOSIS on SIDS and Energy for Sustainable Deelopment

1995-03-28 Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade Download PDF

Topic: Climate

Mr. Chairman, honorable Ministers, Excellencies,
It is an honor for me to represent the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) here at this
meeting, and to share with you some of our concerns with what we as Small Island
Developing States (SIDS) consider to be the question of energy for sustainable
development. Energy is required for development, but unless it is implemented in a
sustainable manner, then we will be further hampered in our efforts for sustainable
development. Hence the distinction I have just made.
AOSIS is a large group of countries, with 43 Member States and Observers from all the
regions. Owing to geographical circumstances, our members States have taken different
approaches in addressing matters pertaining to the promotion, encouragement and
strengthening of renewable energy in the pursuit of sustainable development. The overall
driving forces behind these approaches are, however, similar for all of AOSIS.
We share a common aspiration for economic development and improved living standards,
while at the same time, we remain strongly committed to conserving the natural and
cultural heritage upon which our future depend upon.
Mr. Chairman,
The obstacles to sustainable development are very similar throughout the member States
of AOSIS. Our small size, lack of resources – both human and capital, and remoteness
are some of the common features shared by our countries. SIDS are also vulnerable to
economic, as well as environmental shocks. Our natural environments are fragile, and
have little resilience to natural disasters; our populations are growing; given our
remoteness, we are isolated from markets; we have a narrow resource base, and we face
difficulties arising from economies of scale; finally, but more importantly, we continue
endure high costs for energy, infrastructure, transportation, communication and access to
other services.
Those obstacles are ones that we have to deal with now, yet we are also facing other
obstacles of more recent vintage. A most serious environmental threats to SIDS is the
continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten our very existence. Most
of our island countries are highly vulnerable to increased sea level rise – the entire
territories of at least ten small island developing States are barely one meter above sea
level. In addition to this, all small island developing States have highly vulnerable coastal
zones where the majority of the population live and work.
Member States of AOSIS are the “frontline” states in every sense. We suffer and expect
to suffer in the most direct way the full range of climate impacts – increased cyclones,
droughts, hurricanes, typhoons and coral bleaching among them. All are increasing in
their frequency, intensity and impacts, and we are finding it impossible to cope
adequately with these shocks. The economic effects of these natural disasters are
extremely serious, such as disruptions to food security, to our tourism industry, to the
fisheries and agriculture sectors, and the diversion of economic resources to
reconstruction. The most disturbing for most our island countries is the disruption to our
water supplies, which will be affected by salt-water intrusion. In addition to the
challenges provided by climatic changes, further stress is placed on our respective island
systems as our countries continue to develop.
Mr. Chairman,
As our island countries continue to develop, our reliance on fossil fuels also has
increased, in particular for producing electricity. Given also our geographical settings,
transportation, whether by sea or air, is proving to be the fastest growing consumer of
petroleum. Whilst we recognize that energy is an important ingredient for development in
all countries, it also has grave effects on our small island developing States.

Although renewable energy technologies such as solar, hydropower, biomass and to a
lesser extent wind power, have already been utilized in a number of our countries to
improve our communication systems, including health and education industries, there
remain significant opportunities and potential to further develop these and other
renewable energy resources, and for improving energy efficiency in small island
developing States.
There are a number of significant constraints and barriers to the exploitation and
integration of these renewable energy technologies into the urban and rural sectors. Small
island developing States are, for the most part heavily dependent on fossil fuel based
systems of energy generation, which are environmentally and economically unsustainable
and not readily available to many remote communities. This dependency makes small
islands developing States vulnerable to increased costs and uncertain supplies, which in
turn slows the pace of sustainable development, in particular rural areas, and remote
Access to energy supplies varies widely within and between the small islands developing
States’ regions. For example, it is estimated that in the Pacific Island countries,
approximately 70% of people do not have access to modern energy services, with many
living in remote islands or rural areas. This is a greatly different picture to the global
situation where approximately 30% are without access to modern energy services.
Meeting the basic energy requirements and sustainable socio-economic development
needs of people with subsistence incomes therefore remains a top priority for our
In other regions there is less of a problem of access, but rather of affordability.
Accessibility to energy should be considered together with the reliability of supply and
the affordability of prices, and to which is also closely linked to the issue of energy
Mr. Chairman
It is the wish of AOSIS to ensure that the international community has a better
understanding of the linkages between energy and sustainable development in SIDS.
There are at least two key issues need to be highlighted: energy consumption and the
impacts of energy dependence and expanding access to renewable energy technologies.
As I have noted, imported fossil fuels has become the dominant source of primary
commercial energy for transportation and electricity generation. We are aware that this
will continue to be the case for most SIDS in the foreseeable future, despite ongoing
efforts to develop alternative energy sources, unless active support can be assured. The
almost total dependence of SIDS on imported petroleum for their commercial energy
needs causes a severe imbalance in our trade with other countries. The rising costs of fuel
imports have put a serious drain on limited national financial resources, and are made
even worse when taken in the context of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, tsunamis and
typhoons in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean. Our fuel prices are among the highest in
the world, typically 200–300% higher than international values. Thus the cost of
electricity generation is much higher in SIDS given issues like added costs of fuel
distribution for small-scale generation systems, transportation from central distribution
centers, and the overall costs of storage in limited spaces.
We should also note that most SIDS remain heavily dependent on traditional forms of
energy such as fuel wood, particularly in rural and remote areas where biomass products
(fuel wood from natural forests, coconut shells, husks and stem wood, residues from
crops such as coffee, cocoa, maize, cassava, peanuts and rice) are used primarily for
cooking purposes. In SIDS with large-scale sugar cultivation, bagasse (dry pulp residue
from sugar canes) is used for fuel in sugar mills and for electricity generation. But this is
not the case for rural areas.
We strongly believe that savings can be made through
reducing our dependence on imported petroleum or from increased use of energy
efficiency and conservation measures. But most importantly there is a tremendous
opportunity for us to leap-frog into renewable energy, whether these are traditional and
tested, or new and innovative.
Mr. Chairman,
Many SIDS have significant renewable energy resources but these resources vary
significantly across countries. One thing is clear and that is that we have an abundance of
solar energy.
Direct solar energy is currently used in many SIDS for heating water, and to some extent
for crop drying and processing. The use of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power to
provide electricity in rural areas and remote islands is occurring, and with some success,
but requires further investment.
Wind power and biomass resources vary significantly with location, both within and
between countries while hydroelectric power is available only in a few SIDS.
It should be noted that while traditional biomass fuel usage in SIDS tends to be both
inefficient and unsustainable, biomass energy offers tremendous potential for innovative
applications. Since the management and disposal of wastes is a major concern for SIDS,
waste-to-energy or biogas systems need to be seriously considered for their role in
converting organic wastes into sustainable energy and organic fertilizer.
As we can see Mr. Chairman, there is a lot of potential for changing the paradigm of
energy and sustainable development in SIDS. There are economic benefits, as well as
environmental and social benefits. We have to ask ourselves why renewable energy has
not made greater inroads in our energy balance.
Our experts agree that one of the principal reasons has been the lack of technical and
policy-related knowledge concerning renewable energy within SIDS. We lack
appropriate institutions and do not have adequate technical capacity to evaluate new
technologies and implement their usage. There are a lot of people in our countries who
understand the diesel generator, but not that many who understand the workings of a
solar panel.
The lack of understanding also extends to government circles, where our technical people
lack the information and skills to adequately prepare renewable energy policies. In terms
of the financial requirements we know that sustainable energy development requires
affordable credit financing. But many SIDS do not have the available resources or the
institutional capability to afford the relatively high up-front costs of renewable energy
projects. Some SIDS even have difficulty with the elaborate project proposals and
justification that is required by many donors and agencies.
We know that renewable energy will require political commitment and financial
investments to build appropriate institutional and human capacity. AOSIS Member States
are committed, but we require the assistance of the international community.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to suggest a few recommendations that could become part of
this meeting’s proceedings. If implemented it is our view that a significant series of
benefits would accrue to SIDS.
First of all we must improve on energy efficiency. Such measures play an important role
in the overall economic productivity of SIDS. One of the crucial components of a
sustainable energy system is the improved efficiency of energy end-use, particularly in
the tourism, agriculture and industry sectors. Policy options that support the adoption of
energy efficiency measures in SIDS include the following:
1. Identification and adoption of low and no-cost energy efficiency improvements in key
sectors such as tourism and agriculture;
2. Development of new regulatory and market frame-works that encourage improvements
in energy efficiency;
3. Establishment of comprehensive national/regional energy policies with clearly defined
energy and material efficiency goals;

4. Technical cooperation efforts particularly among other SIDS to promote energy
efficiency, especially in the areas of technological innovation and adaptation, local
capacity building and increased training and information; and
5. Coordinated public awareness campaigns to emphasize importance of economic and
environmental gains of energy and material efficiency.
Secondly, we understand that renewable energy can clearly provide reliable, costeffective energy services for populations living in rural and remote areas in SIDS.
However, specific policy problems particular to SIDS need to be urgently addressed, such
as variations in renewable energy resources availability, variations in local and national
production processes, institutional barriers, financial constraints and human capacity
limitations. In order to increase the accessibility of modern and sustainable energy
services, the following policy options should be considered:
1. Introduction of innovative institutional and financing mechanisms such as microfinancing, cooperative credit and leasing arrangements that allows access to energy
services especially for low-income rural populations.
2. Building appropriate institutional mechanisms that promote increased investments in
decentralized rural energy systems.
3. Creation of an enabling regulatory and financial environment to encourage increased
private sector investment in relevant renewable energy applications.
4. Training of personnel associated with rural energy service systems.
5. Establishment of networks at the regional and sub-regional levels to encourage
cooperation in adapting renewable energy technologies for use in SIDS and renewable
energy related technology transfer.
Thirdly, we have noted that limitations in institutional and human capacity at national and
regional level seriously impair the ability of SIDS to meet the dual challenge of
developing sustainable energy resources and responding to global environmental
problems. The two key constraints related to institutional capacity building are the
limited availability of human resources and a lack of financial resources for developing
and strengthening institutions. The central challenge is to build regional capacity
(technical and institutional) that would promote effective policy responses within the
The specific issues that need to be addressed are:
1. Development of human and institutional capacity for technological assessment and
effective adaptation of relevant options in areas such as energy efficiency and renewable
2. Establishment of training programs that would develop technical capacity among SIDS
decision makers in the areas of integrated energy planning, energy financing, energy
efficiency, rural energy development and renewable energy.
Fourth, and finally, AOSIS is interested in developing an energy agenda for sustainable
development in SIDS. We are looking for pragmatic and progressive partners that will
help us with practical and forward looking projects. We envisage involving relevant UN
agencies and regional organizations, and to build on what has been achieved. The details
of such an agenda are still being debated, but would be an overarching umbrella for the
sorts of activities outlined in my statement. But it is now time to move to implementation
in a manner that SIDS can truly benefit from. The lessons can then be applied to other
groups of countries when they decide to pursue these options.
I hope Mr. Chairman that these comments will enrich our discussion.

Sub Topic: Cross-cutting


Meeting: COP1