Rate this
0 (0 votes)
SIDS 2014: "Sustainable energy has a role in developing nations"
0 out of 5 based on 0 user ratings

SIDS 2014: "Sustainable energy has a role in developing nations"

Samantha Khan 2014

Small island developing states are especially vulnerable to external economic and environmental shocks. At the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa, 1-4 September, the Commonwealth is partnering with the United Nations, governments and international organisations to help build the resilience of these countries.

Samantha Khan, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Trinidad, says sustainable energy is a topic that warrants room on the agenda. 

Sustainable energy, one of the topics to be addressed at the United Nations’ third international conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa this September, at first glance may seem to be a very narrow and technical topic for such a format.

In fact, the energy sector has a great impact on many other aspects of life, including the environment, social and economic development, and international relations. It only takes one look at the wars fought over oil, the prominence of the natural gas trade, and the current debates on renewable energy to bolster the idea that energy may well be the most valuable commodity of the 21st century.

As such, it is crucial for small island developing states to treat the topic with careful thought, perhaps even more so than developed or larger nations because these islands are in the unique position of being affected most gravely by climate change caused by fossil fuel industry, while being without the economic luxury of investing in sustainable energy. I will attempt to outline the changing attitudes toward sustainable energy in small island developing states by looking at its history, current initiatives in the field and a brief glimpse of what the future may hold.

The history of sustainable energy in small island developing states is not exceptionally long, since the world’s energy has traditionally come from oil and gas imports. It is only in the last decade with the advent of research into global warming and climate change that sustainable energy has become a consideration at all. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol outlines various goals with regard to renewable energy, for example the phasing out of all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, the establishment of legally binding targets for renewable energy, and the increase of development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These may seem entirely feasible for developed nations who have the resources to implement such strategies, but for SIDS who depend on the convenience, abundance and lower cost of fossil fuel energy, it is a different matter. A leader of a small island developing nation may weigh the immediate needs of the people – poverty relief, education, housing- as a better use of a country’s revenue than investing in sustainable energy.

For another perspective on the debate, we may look specifically at my country, Trinidad and Tobago, which is the only net exporter of oil and natural gas in the Caribbean. While doing research and attending lectures from several officials in the natural gas industry, I found that there is a stark divide in views on sustainable energy. With the second highest carbon dioxide emissions per capita, sustainable energy should be a crucial consideration. That is unfortunately not the case for many officials, due to the convenience and abundance of fossil fuels for export. On the other hand, some academics in the energy sector believe that sustainable energy is the only way forward as our oil and natural gas industry is far too harmful to the environment. While I certainly agree that diversification is necessary, given the dependence of the Trinbagonian economy on fossil fuel exports, it is unfair to assume that the country can easily afford to move away from the industry, when doing so may have sudden and serious effects on the economy. While a developed nation may be able to withstand the pressure of these effects in the name of environmental protection and diversification, it is much more difficult for a developing nation to do so.

Despite the traditional dependence on non-renewable energy, many small island developing states have begun to consider the development of sustainable energy sources. The 2013 Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States Conference held in Barbados concluded with the adoption of the Barbados Declaration. The declaration acknowledges the importance of sustainable energy to small island developing states by discussing the dependence on imported oil and other fossil fuels for transport and electricity, as well as the resulting economic vulnerability. In addition, the declaration considers the economic reality of SIDS by appealing for assistance from developed nations. It states, “… these technologies must be made accessible, affordable and adaptable to the needs and particular circumstances of SIDS communities. In this regard, we strongly urge the international community, particularly developed countries, to ensure the provision of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building to SIDS.”

In conclusion, there has been considerable progress in the sustainable energy sector for small island developing states, but we must not be lulled into false comfort. While the Barbados Declaration is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, the question remains whether the future will see its benefits. Perhaps there needs to be a strong incentive system in place to encourage the assistance of developed nations and NGOs. A plan has been drafted and set in motion and we must now ensure that the objectives are accomplished.

photo credit: earthrangers via photopin cc

SIDS 2014

Learn more about the Commonwealth’s role at SIDS 2014:
thecommonwealth.org/sids2014

Learn more about the conference:
sids2014.org

Join the conversation online:
Twitter: @commonwealthsec
Facebook: facebook.com/commonwealthsec
hashtags: #islands2014, #cwsmallstates, #commonwealth

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

About me:

“Hello! I’m a student from Trincity, Trinidad, and I love to write, read and sometimes draw. I would live in the cinema if I had the choice. I enjoy learning about as many different cultures as I possibly can.

“My dream is to become a novelist and through that, to challenge the stereotypes and constraints of society, as well as to provide thought-provoking material to shed new light on life itself. I believe that if we all shine a little light into the world, it will inevitably become a brighter place.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments