Director-General attends Pacific Islands Forum

12 September 2011| Articles

Statement by Mr. Adnan Amin at the Plenary Session
Pacific Islands Forum Auckland, 7 September 2011.

Mr. Chairman, Prime Minister Key
Distinguished Heads of Government of the Pacific Islands Forum
Secretary General Slade,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to take part in this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit representing the International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA], the world’s newest intergovernmental organisation created to support the transition to a sustainable energy future for all.  In this regard, the theme of this year’s session “From Potential to Prosperity” describes almost perfectly how we see the role of IRENA.  Mr. Chairman, I thank the Government and people of your beautiful country not only for their warm reception and hospitality, but also for the cooperation we have already received from New Zealand in taking forward the work of IRENA.

Mr. Chairman, on its 40th anniversary, your Forum has become an important regional platform for coordinating efforts to achieve economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.   It is an affirmation of the value of regional and multilateral cooperation at a time of opportunity but also of uncertainty.

Such cooperation is much needed.  The Forum meets at a time of rapid transition in almost all fields of human endeavor.  These transitions are changing how we work and live and impacting our environment in ways that may be difficult to foresee or predict.   Energy is at the base of developments.  Ongoing and fundamental changes in our energy-production systems – and just as importantly in the ways we are consuming energy – are profound.  Whole industries and economic sectors are being reshaped.  The world has recognized that global climate change is real and, increasingly, individual governments and the international community are determined to take remedial action.  The developments we have seen recently in technology, and research and development in renewable energy, are putting new sustainable solutions within reach.

It is in this context that IRENA has emerged.  The creation of IRENA has global significance; it shows that the international community is committed to creating a clean, sustainable and more secure energy future.  I have already had the pleasure of meeting some of you at IRENA’s inaugural Assembly in April this year, and would welcome strong and sustained participation by the Region.  Some of you are already playing a leadership role – Australia as first Chair of the IRENA Council and Tonga as Chair of the Governance and Legal Committee, and 12 out of 14 PIF members are either members or in the process of ratifying.

IRENA has started working on three main fronts: knowledge management and technology cooperation; policy advice and capacity building; and innovation and technology.  The agency’s work is based on the understanding that, with the right policies in place, the current transformation in energy technologies, can be equitably spread to all regions of the world.

IRENA’s regional program this year is focused on Africa and the Pacific Island countries. Given the geography of this region, for the Pacific Island countries, renewable technologies provide the least cost means of supplying basic services to rural households particularly in remote locations where energy demand is low, as well as contributing to power generation.

It is inspiring to see that some islands’ aspirations include 100% renewable energy power supply.  Positive examples of transforming energy sectors in the region are plentiful.  Tonga stipulated its ambitious energy targets in the Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) and I recently attended the first TERM review meeting.  I was encouraged that, in spite of the challenges, progress has been made and ambition remains high.  We agreed that IRENA will work with Tonga to help accelerate this progress, and I applaud the leadership His Excellency PM Lord Tu’ivakano has shown with this initiative which may hold useful insights for the other Pacific Islands.  I am delighted that as an initial input, $5 million of grant resources have been committed by the UAE with the support of IRENA to jump start this process, in addition to the ongoing support provided by New Zealand.

Tokelau can be showcased as the one island country actually nearing the realization of its goal of 100% renewable energy through its Tokelau Renewable Energy Project.  The Cook Islands is also embarking on a program that has strong support at all levels of the country to greatly reduce fossil fuel imports. Many other islands have set inspiring renewable energy goals, and are working toward designing a path to achieve those goals. 

Nevertheless, much more can be done: The Pacific Island Countries’ abundant indigenous renewable energy sources potential is currently under-utilized at around 10% of energy mix on average. The drivers for renewables in the region are clear: several studies indicate that the increase in the price of petroleum from 2002 to early 2008 has cost most Pacific Island Countries and Territories about 10% of their gross national incomes, with impacts falling disproportionately on those with low incomes.

IRENA stands ready to help drive initiatives that create an environment in which renewable energy would flourish in this region.  In October this year, IRENA, with the support of the World Bank, will be hosting a technical working group of Pacific states in Sydney that will bring energy experts from the Pacific to discuss, among other things, the development of renewable energy strategies, in preparation for a renewable energy readiness assessment that is planned for 2012.  We hope that this meeting will provide useful, practical insights that can help further discussions, including at a high level meeting that IRENA is planning to convene in 2012.

Through the preparation of renewable energy readiness reports for Pacific Island States, IRENA will provide input to existing regional renewable energy action plans and bring together partners that can support the action plan implementation, including providing solutions for energy access. Next year marks twenty years since the Rio Earth Summit laid a blueprint for sustainable development.  The world has changed considerably since that Earth Summit twenty years ago.  Our responses today have to include practical, holistic solutions that recognize intrinsic connections between poverty reduction, climate change, food, water and energy security, and address these challenges in a manner that reflects the needs and opportunities of the 21st century

Distinguished participants, clean energy and a low carbon economy are essential elements of a safer and more prosperous world for all.  Developing clean, affordable and sustainable energy sources is central to safeguarding our planet and its climate for generations to come.  The progress made in renewables and clean technologies in the last decades, the growth in investment and the expansion of installed generating capacity gives us encouragement but there is a long way to go, and I am here to affirm to you that you will have a reliable and supportive partner in IRENA as we embark on this journey.

I wish you success in your deliberations.