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Pacific Gets Massive €600 Million Renewable Energy Boost

EU commissioner Mimica inaugurates a sustainability project in the Pacific. Photo: @Andrew_JacobsEU / Twitter
EU commissioner Mimica inaugurates a sustainability project in the Pacific. Photo: @Andrew_JacobsEU / Twitter

International donors including the European Union and New Zealand have committed over €600 million for sustainable energy projects in the Pacific region.

The funding, announced at the Pacific Energy Conference in Auckland yesterday (7 June), is aimed at making sure the region will be powered by at least 50 per cent renewable energy by 2024.

Key challenges in the Pacific region are related to the low lying nature of some of the islands – making them particularly vulnerable to climate change – small populations, vast distances between the countries and a strong dependence on fossil fuels.

“Impressive commitment from EU commissioner Neven Mimica to supporting the pacific,” New Zealand’s climate change minister Paula Bennett tweeted.

Bennett and Mimica – the EU’s international cooperation and development commissioner – have been inspecting sustainability projects in the region this week, ahead of the announcement. The region includes 15 countries with a combined area of more than 500.000 square kilometres.

The Asian Development Bank, the World Bank Group, Australia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are also part of the investment agreement.

Access to Electricity

It is expected the funding will provide access to electricity for an estimated one million people in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. It will also help other countries in the region to double their renewable energy generation, according to a statement by New Zealand’s foreign ministry.

The 635 million New Zealand dollars committed at the first Pacific Energy Summit in 2013 have already translated into over $900 million of investments across 70 projects, New Zealand’s foreign minister Murray McCully has said.

“In the same way, I hope to see the $1 billion of commitments announced today increase as opportunities for leverage become apparent, and as the ambition of partners grows,” he said.

International Collaboration

The European Union co-hosted the Auckland summit with New Zealand. The island nation has been negotiating a formal agreement on deeper cooperation on economic and trade topics with the EU since 2012.

The current collaboration “paves the way for the future expansion of the successful EU-New Zealand partnership to fields such as climate change (…) and sustainable agriculture,” EU commissioner Mimica said.

Climate-KIC – the EU’s public-private partnership tasked with finding climate change solutions – is already working with organisations in New Zealand and Australia. “Our agenda is global one, it makes no sense for us to be just Europe-based,” Climate-KIC CEO Ian Short recently told Science|Business.

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