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Sierra Daily

May 11, 2012

Dumping Diesel

Cook islands iStock_000015062132XSmallIsland nations are trying to get off oil and keep their ankles above water as quickly as they can. At a recent meeting convened by the U.N. Development Program and the Barbados government, “small island states” committed to dropping diesel imports and investing in renewable energy to address climate change. 

According to AFP, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu aim to get all their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, while St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean is aiming for 60 percent from renewables by 2020. Using coconut biofuel and solar panels, Tokelau -- three islands between New Zealand and Hawaii -- plans to become self-sufficient in energy this year. 

"Somewhere in our makeup we are environmentally conscious people, because we have learned to live off the land and off the sea,” said Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna. “That is our heritage, that is our tradition and we are just tapping into that again."

The cost of keeping the lights on in these remote places is also an incentive. About 15 percent of the Cook Islands’ GDP is spent on importing oil. U.N. studies show that the figure runs as high as 30 percent in some Pacific countries. Meanwhile, oil imports account for just under 3 percent of GDP in the U.S. and the European Union.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long recognized the threat of rising seas to island nations caused by climate change, and the Security Council and the Pentagon have already considered the potential need for “green peacemaking” in an era of climate refugees.

Photo by iStock/brians101

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked at the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term.  For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.” 

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