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Pacific region launches the UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All, seeing it as a game-changer

NADI/VIENNA, 2 April 2014: The United Nations Decade for Sustainable Energy for All was successfully launched today with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Government of Fiji. Held on the margins of the 2nd Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Meeting in Nadi, Fiji, the event seeks to discuss, share and exchange ideas on how Pacific Island countries and territories can address challenges and ensure sustainable energy and transportation for the people in the region.

In his welcome remarks, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General of the SPC noted that the relationship between energy and transport is a very critical one for their communities. ‘That the economic development and growth of Pacific nations is highly reliant on fossil fuel energy sources is unquestionable – we are   vulnerable to global forces such as world fuel prices, and costs associated with transporting fuel to our region,’ he said.

Mr Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, delivered Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s prepared remarks. In his remarks, Mr. Ban commended the Island states for their global leadership in leading the transition to clean energy use and production. “The ground-breaking Majuro Declaration on climate change includes clear renewable and energy efficiency targets. Tokelau has become the first territory in the world to generate 100 per cent of its power from renewable energy, while our host, the government of Fiji, is demonstrating its commitment to support sustainable energy for all through concrete actions,” said Mr. Ban as he reiterated his calls for shared efforts towards a sustainable future and a transformation of the global energy system.

Noting that most Pacific Island nations are highly dependent on imported fossil fuels to meet their energy needs, and are vulnerable to international price fluctuations and escalating fuel costs, Mr. Foua Toloa, Tokelau Minister for Finance, Telecommunication, Energy and Transport, expressed his hope that “this launch marks the beginning of a game-changing approach to energy in this region.” The launch was also welcomed in statements by Ministers from the Marshall Islands and Tonga.

Speaking on “Sustainable Energy and Transport Services for All” earlier in the day, Mr. Jone Usamate, Fiji´s Acting Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utilities, noted energy and transport issues capture the “nerve centre” of the vulnerability of the small island states. “Energy and Transport are key drivers of our economies but they are also the two sectors that pose the greatest challenge to our sustainable development,” he said. “For our people to benefit from sustainable development, we need an affordable, reliable and efficient energy and transport services for the benefit of our people,” he further underscored.

Addressing the high-level delegates as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and CEO, Ms. Susan McDade noted that at the core of all the issues the region faces, the energy issue stands out as an enabler rather than a sector. “It is an enabler of transportation, an enabler of health, an enabler of gender equality, of safe drinking water, of food and nutrition among many others,” she pointed out. She also challenged the region to ensure that their collective voice and support for the global energy targets on access, efficiency and renewables is heard in the on-going debate on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The impressive launch event included presentations by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations Environment Program. Both are thematic hubs for the initiative’s renewable and energy efficiency activities and highlighted activities that they have and will continue to undertake in the region. The launch also heard statements from donor countries and developing partners, such as the United Arab Emirates, as well as New Zealand, itself a member of the SPC.

The ministers’ meeting is attended by close to 200 delegates from the region’s transport and energy sectors, regional and international organisations, development partners and other stakeholders in the industries.

This Pacific launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All is part of several launches in different regions around the world throughout 2014. The Decade was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. A global launch will take place in New York, USA, in June, as part of the first Sustainable Energy for All Forum.

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