Regional Energy And Transport Ministers Meeting Underway In Tonga

Crown Prince touts reliable, affordable, sustainable transportation solutions

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 26, 2017) – The Third Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers Meeting was opened in Nuku'alofa today, April 26, by Crown Prince Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala, who called on them to take action on energy efficiency, particularly in the transport sector in the region.

Attended by more than 100 high level delegates and experts including the Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna, Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga and Prime Minister Hon 'Akilisi Pohiva and other ministers, the meeting is hosted by the Pacific Community and Tongan Government under a theme, 'Affordable, Reliable and Sustainable Energy and Transport Services for All.'

The Crown Prince said energy and transport sectors are vital at national, regional and global levels for our survival and sustainability.

He said adverse climate changes, sea level rising and extreme weather patterns have been attributed to the energy sources we use and the way we use them. The use of the fossil fuel as a source of energy and fuel for transportation has been proven to be the major culprit in the adverse changing weather patterns, he said.

The challenge for your meeting is to deliberate on measures that we can collectively carry out as a region, together with the support of our regional agencies, like SPC, and development partners in order to maximize the benefits from these development paradigms, he said.

"For so long, energy efficiency in the transport sector has been neglected. Safety in domestic shipping has not been given the due attention until there is an incident. Participation of women in both energy and transport could have been better. We are therefore looking forward for your stewardship in charting the way forward for our energy and transport sectors so that there is affordable, reliable and sustainable energy and transport services for all’ for our communities and our people."

He said the Tongan Government has embarked on an ambitious target to generate 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy by 2020 and to be 70 percent by 2030, and reaching out 100 percent by 2035, according to its 2016 Climate Change Policy and Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. 

Challenges

"Our approach has also been to address the needs of our most vulnerable sectors of our society, the poor, the marginalized, the people with special needs and isolated, the aged group, and the women and children. Affordable, reliable and sustainable energy and transport services for all is about empowering communities to take part in addressing their energy and transport challenges."

Crown Prince Tupouto'a said in Tonga, our northern-most island of Niua has been living for ages with the challenges of infrequent ship arrivals, shortages of food and basic daily needs like kerosene, batteries and medicine and the very high energy and transport costs.

The people of Niua had got together and formed a Niua Development Committee, fund raised and were now building a boat that would run mostly on wind power. "Such an initiative will not only make energy and transport services affordable for the Niua community but it will also make it reliable and sustainable too, as is the theme of your meeting," he said.  

"I wish that mutual solutions could be identified with implementation plans agreed upon."

Energy security

Pacific Community Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga said SPC’s contribution to Pacific Island energy and transport sectors, included the adoption of uniform standards and governance tools for maritime safety and energy security; supporting private sector and governments to improve safety at sea and access to electricity and training hundreds of professionals each year from governments, administrations and private sector. More recently, they were providing technical assistance for members to reduce greenhouse gas from the energy and maritime transport sectors.

He said SPC would remain fully engaged in both sectors, and was actively reforming its structure towards a more integrated approach in several areas.

The energy and transport ministers will also consider resolutions from a two-day officials meeting held earlier in the week, where it was also discussed, the Green and Blue Economy and challenges of accessing multilateral environment funding to support addressing the region’s energy and transport challenges.   

SPC with its members and partners also celebrated its 70th Anniversary in Tonga, with the inauguration of a Tonga-based Pacific Centre of Excellence on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PCREEE) today.

[PIR editor's note: On April 27, 2017 RNZI reported that 'Increased access in the region to modern, affordable and reliable energy is the aim of a Pacific Community office launched in Tonga. ... The Pacific Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency was opened in Nuku'alofa today and will eventually house ten staff.']

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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