More than 100 heads of state, ministers, development experts, environmental activists, business executives and United Nations officials – representing 39 countries in the Caribbean, Asia/Pacific, Indian Ocean and Africa – gathered in Barbados this week to participate in a two-day conference on “Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States.”
The conference concluded on May 8 with the adoption of the "Barbados Declaration," which calls for 20 small island developing states (SIDS) to make a commitment to provide universal access to modern and affordable renewable energy services, while protecting the environment, ending poverty and creating new opportunities for economic growth.
To date, the small island developing states have been highly dependent on imported oil and other fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, which has been a major source of economic volatility.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados and UNDP Environment and Energy Group Director Veerle Vandeweerd opened the conference today by acknowledging the leadership of small island developing states when it comes to action on transforming the energy sector, reducing carbon footprints and taking steps toward sustainable development
"By 2029 we expect that total electricity costs would have been cut by US$283.5 million and CO2 emissions would have been reduced by 4.5 million tons," said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados. "We also envisage an overall 22 percent reduction in projected electricity consumption based on the use of energy efficiency measures."
The declaration, adopted just weeks before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), includes an annex comprising the voluntary commitments of the SIDS participants. Among them are:
- The host country will increase the share of renewable energy in Barbados to 29 percent of all electricity consumption by 2029
- Maldives will achieve carbon neutrality in the energy sector by year 2020
- Marshall Island will electrify all urban households and 95 percent of rural, outer atoll households by 2015
- Mauritius will increase the share of renewable energy—including solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, as well as bagasse and landfill gas—to 35 percent by 2025
Seychelles will produce 15 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.
"Sustainable development is not possible without sustainable energy," United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to the conference. “The world's appetite for energy continues to grow, and the global thermostat continues to rise. My vision is a world with universal energy access; a doubling of the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and a doubling of renewable energy in our mix of fuel sources by 2030."
In some small island states, switching to hydro, solar, geothermal or other renewable energy sources can free up to 30 percent of gross domestic product which is otherwise expended on imports of oil and refined petroleum products.
Savings can then be invested in jobs in sectors such as clean energy, improved health care and education, stronger safety nets for people whose livelihoods will be affected by the phase out of fossil fuels, adaptation to climate change and other programs.
Already one member of the small island developing states group, Tonga plans to become a carbon-free producer of electricity in 2012, while the nearby Pacific territory of Tokelau has similar intentions this year.
"Rio+20 is now less than 50 days away,” the Secretary-General said in his message. “We must do our utmost for an ambitious outcome. We must focus on concrete results, such as an Oceans Compact, support for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, and launching a process to establish Sustainable Development Goals that build on the Millennium Development Goals. I urge you to ensure that the voices of island states are heard."
Edited by Braden Becker