- Date published:
10:30 am, March 25th, 2013 - 20 comments
Categories: aid, climate change, Conservation, energy, International, john key, sustainability - Tags: eu, murray mccully, pacific islands, renewable energy
There is an important summit on renewable energy in the Pacific in Auckland today and tomorrow, which is strongly supported by the PM. His press release focuses on the investment opportunities it provides, rather than the needs of Pacific people and their communities.
Nevertheless, it’s great that there is a focus on helping small Pacific countries manage the inter-related crises in energy and climate change. It will be interesting to see the outcomes from the conference. It is, however, worrying that key, Murray McCully and others are talking up the role of private enterprise in the shift to renewable energy in the Pacific.
Claire Trevett, in this morning’s NZ Herald, reports:
Several Pacific Island Prime Ministers are in Auckland today for a summit to drum up money to reduce the islands’ dependence on diesel for energy….
Most of the Pacific Island leaders arrived last week, before being taken by the air force to Tonga for two days of meetings.
Mr McCully said using the air force for the Tonga talks was appropriate given the EU had helped cover the costs for the leaders to get to New Zealand.
“We felt it was appropriate for us to take care of the Tonga leg. There aren’t that many flights to Tonga and there aren’t that many seats available for the number of people we had to travel.”
The summit is one of the largest international meetings to be held in New Zealand and tens of millions of dollars of donor and loan funding is expected to be announced. The EU alone is expected to announce more than $14 million for energy projects, and Mr McCully said the summit was also to encourage more private sector investment.
He said many Pacific countries relied on diesel for more than 95 per cent of their energy needs, spending on average about 10 per cent of their GDP on importing it. About 80 renewable energy projects had been identified to help slash that back.
Others attending include Helen Clark, the head of the United Nations Development Programme.
The summit includes a range of government and international entities and representatives, which will hopefully ensure some balance in the discussions. I hope the MSM reports give the summit balanced, critical and in-depth coverage, but I’m not holding my breath. According to the website, Electric Light and Power (an industry/business-focused organisation), the following entities are attending the summit:
In addition to most Pacific leaders, the Summit will be attended by international donors such as the EU, Australia, Japan, China, the United Arab Emirates, the World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank; and the heads of international organisations including the International Renewable Energy Agency.
“In countries in which there are good procedural and institutional arrangements it is relatively simple to use the power pricing arrangements as a base to configure a mix of grant funding, concessional finance and commercial finance to make a viable project. For this reason, the attendance of major donors like the EU, alongside finance providers like the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to construct optimal packages to suit projects and national circumstances,” Mr McCully says.
“All of the indications are that we will see very substantial commitments of both grant and loan finance on a scale that will enable a quantum leap forward toward renewable energy within our region.
Interesting also that, in that article, McCully is reported to have acknowledged the existence of climate change.
It’s worrying that it’s referred to as being like “speed dating” in the RNZ report on the summit this morning.
It is promising to hear that Tokelau has shifted totally to renewables. In the RNZ audio report, the EU rep hopes that the shift to renewables Pacific will demonstrate that clean energy can help to reduce poverty. He argues that this will give them extra leverage in negotiations to reduce carbon emissions.
The summit appears to be focused on stimulating investment in green energy projects. I have not yet seen reports that focus in any detail on the impacts on Pacific communities. Certainly, reducing emissions, and development of renewable energy should be beneficial. however, I have concerns about international investors using it as an opportunity to gain leverage in, and extract profits from the Pacific region.