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SG Slade's remarks, Pacific Leaders' Energy Summit, March 2013, TONGA

PACIFIC LEADERS’ ENERGY SUMMIT

21-22 March, 2013

Fa’onelua Convention Centre, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Presentation by the Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade

 

Hon Forum Leaders
Distinguished delegates

This is a meeting of considerable significance, deservedly at high leadership level, on a subject so fundamentally critical to national and regional economies, but also of critical importance to the global response to the dangers of climate change.

2. So we are grateful to the Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano, for convening this summit gathering.

Support for TERM

3. The Forum Secretariat has been greatly honoured in being involved and being able to play a part, modest as it may be, in the development of the Tonga Energy Roadmap (TERM). With this presentation I want to give assurance of the Secretariat’s continued commitment and support in the further development and implementation of the Roadmap.

Region of heavy energy reliance

4. The domination of fossil fuel use and heavy reliance on imported energy sources in all Pacific countries are well acknowledged and on the public record. There is not a facet of economic development and growth or trade in the region - indeed, of poverty alleviation activity - that is not affected by heavy energy reliance. It is a situation which allows for total exposure of small and inherently fragile economies, and which renders Pacific countries severely vulnerable to global economic, financial and environmental forces and the events of widespread instability they so often cause.

5. Across the region, approximately 1.3 billion litres of fossil fuels are imported annually at a total cost of nearly USD1 billion. As we heard this morning, Tonga's total fuel imports account for about 25% of all imports in this country and about 10% of its GDP. Time and again over the years global market forces cause dramatic shifts and the region as a whole is basically defenceless against spiralling fuel prices, and the associated consequences of inflation and related economic difficulties.

Forum Leaders’ communiqués on energy

6. In almost every Forum communiqué in recent years, Leaders have emphasised the importance of securing access to energy, their commitment to renewable energy, promotion of efficiency measures and the need for significant progress in diversification by developing domestic renewable energy to reduce their reliance on imported fuels.

7. In particular, Forum Leaders have encouraged the development of credible whole of sector plans such as “energy road maps” and structures to improve energy security, reduce dependency on fossil fuel and improve access for all to electricity. They acknowledge the benefit of facilitating greater private sector participation; and Leaders have called on development partners to assist in the implementation of national energy sector plans and targets and to strengthen coordination of their financing activities.

8. This summit gathering is true to the declared ambition and determination of Forum Leaders to take effective action now for a secure energy future for all Pacific communities. As the Lord Prime Minister of Tonga has noted, it is a high policy move which is entirely in step with the global initiative launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for the achievement of Sustainable Energy for All by 2030.

9. Without question such laudable initiative would need to rely on well designed and integrated country action plans. As we have heard and seen from the presentations this morning from the Government of Tonga on their Energy Roadmap, it has set the most admirable of standards and example.

10. From my Secretariat position, allow me also to acknowledge other energy-related endeavours undertaken in the region and similar roadmap-initiatives being planned or under way in other Pacific countries, including in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Regional collaboration

11. As I have noted, Forum Leaders have given constant attention to the range of issues that needed addressing, including at the regional level and to possible practical approaches.

12. In 2010 Leaders endorsed the Framework for Action on Energy Security in the Pacific under the leadership of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and reaffirmed their commitment to renewable energy and an energy efficient future based on achievable, practical and voluntary targets.

13. They noted in particular the special needs of the Smaller Island States (SIS) and their limited capacity to develop renewable energy proposals and to manage large funded projects. The regional framework was completed with inputs from relevant regional agencies and development partners and identifies a new set of priorities for energy in the region. Best efforts are aimed at alignment and coordination so that regional priorities reflect and underline national implementation policy. But we know from experience that implementation plans are often hampered by, for example, lack of funding.

14. While initially there appeared viable prospects for the bulk purchase of fuel under the Pacific Petroleum Project it became clear a year or so ago that there were other real practical challenges in the support that could be expected from all Forum member countries.

15. The TERM shows that good planning needs political leadership, complementary policy in related sectors (such as Transport), sustainable funding, support from development partners and the willingness of all to commit to implementation measures.

Merits and strength of TERM

16. From our standpoint we see significant pluses in the TERM for itself as a national Roadmap, and for emulation of others:

• a key strength would be the efforts to coordinate and collaborate internally and externally between the Government of Tonga and relevant stakeholders and partners;
• the setting of priorities for energy activities in Tonga, with the required resources needed to implement the activities;
• provision of the requisite monitoring and evaluation mechanism;
• engagement from all stakeholders in the medium to long term;
• addressing the energy needs of other sectors like transport (these will require development of efficient bio-fuel, better urban planning, improvements in the roads and routes, and introduction of efficiencies in public transport); and
• practicality and realism in the achievement goals and targeted time frames.

Forum Compact and peer review

17. In a recent peer reviewing of the Tongan national development plans under the Forum Compact for Strengthening Development Coordination, a principal recommendation was made for development partners to replicate the TERM approach in other sectors, on the basis that the TERM provided a good way for development partners to engage in a coordinated manner with a specific sector of Government. A related recommendation was for the Forum Secretariat to prepare a case study on the TERM for regional and global learning and replication.

18. I am pleased to note that a Secretariat peer review follow up team will start work on the TERM case study next week and will liaise with the World Bank and other relevant stakeholders on the details of the requisite work. I am certain that the case study will produce valuable information to provide further guidance to the Government of Tonga, and I’m sure to the region, in the implementation of the TERM.

PEC Fund

19. Let me also refer quickly to the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund being implemented by the Forum Secretariat, with very generous grant funds from the Government of Japan for use on solar energy and desalination projects, for the benefit of 14 Pacific island Forum countries.

20. Tonga as one of the beneficiary countries is currently finalising a concept note for the utilisation of its PEC Fund allocation. The TERM is being used to guide the development of the concept note with respect to determining the priority areas to be supported by the PEC Fund. As may be necessary, interested and supporting development partners would have a role in relevant components of the proposal.

21. For itself, the Secretariat stands ready to support the development of Tonga’s detailed project proposal for PEC Fund, as part of the implementation of the TERM.

PEC Fund Progress

22. We are fast approaching the stage where all Forum Island Countries are accessing and utilising their PEC Fund allocations.

23. It is for observation that thus far Pacific countries have decided to utilise their allocations, completely or in part, for solar power generation. This would underscore the priority countries have placed on utilising their allocation for renewable energy projects.

24. Let me also mention that at their PALM6 summit in Okinawa last year Forum Leaders requested the Government of Japan to consider replenishment of the PEC Fund through a second phase and expand its scope to cover other areas of priority. The matter is now under consideration, and I’m sure the efficient utilisation and implementation of PEC Fund allocations would be an important factor in that process.

25. What is certain is that replenishment of the PEC Funds through a second phase would provide a significant injection of resources to assist the region to meet the energy targets highlighted under instruments such as the TERM.

Closing remarks

26. The regional faces substantial challenges with even providing basic energy services to the vast majority of the Pacific over 70% of the population in the Pacific do not have access to electricity.

27. Together, we need to ensure that we make sustainable energy a reality for all Pacific islanders.

Thank You.

(Ends)

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