“This may very well be our last chance. Some may accuse us of being overly dramatic, but we can assure you, there is no drama when as the leaders of small islands and coastal cities, year after year, you bury the dead from climate-induced natural disasters, including young children, who are the most vulnerable and so small they cannot help themselves. You scramble to provide security and shelter for your people, freshwater, and enough energy to keep the lights on in your hospitals to tend to those injured. No more!”
These are some of the unbearable horrors of climate change and sea level rise that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and coastal cities with some of the world’s youngest populations face, the Honourable Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga said, in his capacity as President of the SIDS DOCK Assembly, as he led a Call To Action! for ocean energy for resilient economies and the establishment of the Global Ocean Energy Alliance (GOEA), before a socially-distanced audience, at the SIDS DOCK Side Event, held on the margins of the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties 2021 (COP26), on 11 November 2021, and hosted at the world-famous Wood House, in Glasgow, Scotland, and conducted remotely by means of conferencing. The Side Event was chaired by His Excellency Mr. Ronald Jumeau, Ambassador and former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Seychelles to the UN and Chair of the Executive Council of SIDS DOCK.
SIDS DOCK and its partners, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Stimson Center Alliance for a Climate Resilient Earth (ACRE), will cooperate to establish the Global Ocean Energy Alliance, mobilise resources, facilitate partnerships with the private sector aimed at the effective transfer of ocean energy knowledge, technology and investments, and to put the appropriate institutional framework in place for an Ocean Energy Industry. The partners also introduced the “Ocean Energy For Blue Economies Platform,” powered by SustainChain™, a marketplace to facilitate science and technology exchanges necessary for advancing ocean energy technologies and in particular, the commercial-scale deployment of ocean-based energy technologies that are appropriate to the demands in SIDS. The decreasing technology costs and maturity for some ocean energy technologies makes ocean energy capable of helping SIDS and coastal cities with the goal of reducing long-term energy cost, generating employment, reducing trade imbalances resulting from the more than USD 25 billion payment for fuel imports, and challenges arising from climate change (reduction in freshwater, reduction of fish catch due to warming oceans and bleaching of coral).
Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa was supported in the Call To Action! by the two Vice-Presidents of the sixth session of the SIDS DOCK Assembly, the Honourable Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan, President of the Republic of Seychelles, and the Honourable John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize, respectively, along with Dr. The Honourable Ralph Everard Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and former Vice-President of the third session of the Assembly of SIDS DOCK. They were joined by the Honourable Dr. Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, where the first floating Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) Platform, being developed in partnership with the United Kingdom (UK) company Global OTEC, is expected to be deployed in 2024, helping to unburden the people of Sao Tome and Principe from importing expensive and dirty fossil fuels, and provide a demonstration for scaling up across small islands, coastal cities and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We wish to propose a course of action that we have long advocated alongside our climate alarms, and that is a Call To Action! for the development of the largest energy resource on the planet – the oceans. We, as the leaders of small islands, have accessed the information, done our own evaluation, and we agreed to collectively support and advocate for ocean energy as our lives depend on it. Development and deployment of ocean energy technologies is therefore a priority,” Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa said. The Prime Minister also noted that UNIDO intends to contribute to the building up of ocean energy project pipelines promoted through the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centers (GN-SEC). The various centers cover most of the thirty-eight (38) SIDS, and accelerates the energy transition by creating spill-over effects, economies of scale and joint learning.
The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also invited the international community and the private sector to join the UAE in its support for the Call to Action! for ocean energy and the GOEA. In her remarks, Her Excellency Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Permanent Mission of the UAE to the United Nations, announced that the new UAE-IRENA USD 400 million global climate finance facility, the Energy Transition Accelerator Financing (ETAF) Platform, will include financing for ocean energy, where in 2023, at COP28, in Abu Dhabi, the UEA hopes to showcase support for the first ocean energy projects. The ETAF was launched at COP26.
The Prime Minister of Tonga announced that the partners will officially launch the GOEA at the UN Oceans Conference, scheduled for July 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal, and asked the international community and the private sector to answer the Call To Action! and join the Global Ocean Energy Alliance to help protect and conserve the oceans and support the development of the SIDS Ocean Energy Work Programme. “We are seeking partners and we are looking to our oceans and in particular, ocean energy, as the principal source of energy to help a number of islands survive and thrive. Ocean energy is the big game changer to turn the tide on climate change and get to Net Zero. This is the only option left for our children’s survival and our future,” he said.