Pacific island nations seek enabling policies to reach sustainable energy goals

Pacific island nations seek enabling policies to reach sustainable energy goals

Nadi, Fiji

Fourteen Pacific island countries ended two days of consultations this week acknowledging that it is crucial to promote synergy between their macroeconomic and energy security policies to achieve sustainable development and insulate themselves from external economic shocks.

Over 50 participants, including finance, central bank, planning, and energy officials and development partners took part in the 8-9 October “High-level Policy Dialogue on the Role of Macroeconomic Policy and Energy Security in supporting Sustainable Development in the Pacific”, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Noting the commitment by world leaders at the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil to balance the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development, the participants agreed that this was a call to re-align macroeconomic policies to become “enablers” for achieving sustainable development, including sustainable energy.

An exclusive focus on the economic pillar could have negative social and environmental impacts such as growing inequalities and natural resource degradation, participants said, but they agreed that there could also be synergies among the three pillars.

This interdependence was also highlighted by the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Fiji H.E. Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama in his keynote address to the forum on the opening day: “Investment in renewables and energy efficiency is not only good for the environment but also for the economy… improving energy security and reducing reliance on fossil fuels contributes to a more stable macroeconomic environment that is beneficial for the long-term health of Pacific countries.”

Heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels for their energy needs, Pacific island countries are giving high priority to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, with many countries setting ambitious renewable energy targets and some countries, such as Tonga, creating national energy roadmaps.

Participants considered how fiscal and monetary policy could support sustainable energy growth in the Pacific including through tax, subsidies, their national budgets and public investment to develop a market for the private sector to invest further in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Monetary policy could enhance the renewable energy sector’s access to credit, they agreed.

The policy dialogue also provided Pacific island countries a forum to explore strategic policy options and subregional plans to enhance energy security in preparation for the ministerial Asian and Pacific Energy Forum (APEF) to be held in 2013 in Vladivostok, Russia which was mandated by member States at ESCAP's 67th Session of the Commission.

Pacific Island Governments emphasized that Pacific leaders have made strong commitments to developing sustainable energy in the Pacific subregion, including the 2010 Framework for Action on Energy Security. They endorsed an offer by Tonga to host a meeting next year of Pacific leaders, energy ministers and development partners to share lessons on the development and implementation of the Tonga Energy Roadmap.

The Pacific subregional consultation for APEF was the second in a series of Asia-Pacific subregional consultations being organized by ESCAP in preparation for APEF which began with the South-East Asia consultation held in Bangkok, Thailand from 3 to 5 October.