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Presentation to EcoAsia 2000

September 2000

Momentum Towards the Success of Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

By the Honorable Maxime Carlot Korman, Minister for Lands, Geology and Mines

Honorable Chairman, distinguished delegates to the Eco-Asia 2000 Conference, Ladies and Gentlemen. Today I will bring you news of a plan by Vanuatu and the small island developing states of the Region to assist in the process of reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Vanuatu and the small island developing states have been dedicated to solving this problem for a very long time. The full implications of the impact of global atmospheric pollution by carbon dioxide on small islands were made very clear at the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1990. The island leaders attending the conference agreed to form the Alliance of Small Island Developing States to combine our efforts to resolve this global threat. AOSIS, with 36 member countries, has since played a central role in shaping international policy on climate change.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the 'Climate Convention') was based on a 1989 UN General Assembly Resolution, the Climate Convention. This convention  was fashioned in six intensive, two-week negotiating sessions in the 14 months leading up to the June 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

AOSIS, and a UN coalition of more than 100 developing countries known as the Group of 77 and China, made significant contributions to the Climate Convention. AOSIS countries worked intensively on the Objective of the Climate Convention, namely to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at levels that would not present a danger to the global climate system.

AOSIS submitted a draft protocol to the first Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention held in Berlin in April of 1995. This protocol, now called the AOSIS protocol, established a goal of a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gasses by the year 2005. It is a centrepiece of continued international negotiations on climate policy known as 'the Berlin Mandate'.

The unity of purpose of AOSIS comes from the common threat to the survival of island countries imposed by global climate change. The scientific community now has fully substantiated our concerns. Leadership has also been important to the unity of purpose of AOSIS. Ambassador Robert Van Lierop, who represented Vanuatu for more than a decade at the United Nations, was the first Chair. AOSIS, under his leadership, negotiated an agreement in preparation for the UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Barbados.

The world has recognized AOSIS as the conscience of the international community on climate policy, because everyone understood the truth and justness of its cause and respected the united commitment of its member countries. The world also knows that the small island developing states face the greatest risk from climate change. Without AOSIS, the island countries faced destruction without representation. The principle of representation proportionate to risk struck a sympathetic chord at the Second World Climate Conference, and culminated in the inclusion of AOSIS members, including Ambassador Van Lierop and later Ambassador Slade, on the governing bureau of the climate negotiations.

AOSIS was again a proactive force helping to develop the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, working steadily toward a solution to the stubborn problems faced by the industrial nations that are financially and technologically dependent on oil.

Both AOSIS and international climate policy are now at an historic crossroad. At the September 1999 Third Summit of the Heads of State and Government of AOSIS in New York, The Heads of State and Government of AOSIS affirmed that the issue of climate change remained an urgent, principal concern for small island developing States. The well-being and the very survival of island communities, are threatened and the effects of climate change are being experienced at present in all regions. 

AOSIS leaders underscored that the efforts of the developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases must be strengthened and accelerated.  They also expressed the need for further international assistance for small island developing States to plan for longer-term adaptation to the effects of climate change.

They urgently called on Annex 1 Countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and develop clear plans for carbon dioxide reduction. With each meeting, the pressure on the industrial nations to take positive action increased as mounting scientific evidence demonstrated the catastrophic environmental impacts that are resulting from their lack of resolution.

In 1999, the coral reef scientists of the world reported massive coral reef death directly attributed to global warming. The scientists stated that is may already be too late to save the coral reefs of the world. The impact of this on our island societies will be catastrophic – economically as well as environmentally.

Our island societies, our fragile marine ecosystems, our culture, and the global climate can be spared only by immediate reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The time has come to quit evading the basic issue and take deliberate proactive steps to move away from fossil-fuels and initiate a major global thrust to achieve 100% renewable energy economies based on hydrogen fuel technologies.

Oil has held center stage of the world energy scene since the beginning of the last Century. The environmental and health costs of atmospheric pollution from fossil fuels, the environmental costs of petroleum polluting the sea and fresh water, and the rising price of defending, obtaining, shipping and processing oil clearly demonstrate a change to other energy sources and other fuels is a global necessity.

But the installed capital base for supplying and using oil products, and the vast army of people directly employed in the oil economies, makes a shift to alternative fuels extraordinarily difficult for the Industrial nations. As a result, the Industrial countries are continuing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars trying to reshape their oil and fossil fuel economies by imaginative technologies that continue to be based on petroleum.

  • They continue to develop their oil and gas reserves, spending billions each year to go deeper into the sea and further a field to find oil and gas.
  • They spend billions cleaning up the messes caused by petroleum and are proposing billions more to "sequester" carbon dioxide in deep wells, in the deep sea, or elsewhere.
  • They continue to spend billions of dollars every year militarily defending the oil resources.
  • They continue to spend billions of dollars on health problems related to atmospheric pollution from petroleum fueled cars, trucks and busses.

But the whole world’s budget for renewable energy and hydrogen fuel technology research, development and implementation is a mere pittance. Why? Because the installed capital base is too large, too complex, and has too many jobs to easily shift to clean pollution free systems - Even though these already exist and, for the cost of five years of paying for the negative impacts of oil the world could shift to these new technologies.

Consequently, although the technology exists to develop integrated renewable energy systems and hydrogen fuels, there is insufficient funding to enable these technologies to reach an economy of scale and compete with oil. For example, fuel cells cost nearly $3,000 per kilowatt to build compared with about $125 per kilowatt to build a diesel engine. But if diesel engines had to be built one by one, with each part fabricated by hand, how much would they cost? If the United States spend even one tenth of its energy budget on a full on engineering project to develop fuel cell factories and mass produce fuel cells, how much would they cost?

Even with their funding disadvantages, wind power and solar electricity are quickly approaching economic parity with oil based systems and, if the environmental, health, and military costs are factored in, they now are vastly more economical. But the critical need is for a new, non-polluting fuel and this has been identified as hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuels made from renewable energy and water.

You can’t imagine how welcome that idea is to Vanuatu and the small countries of the Pacific. What if we were independent of the oil cartel, able to make our own fuel?

Right now Vanuatu’s cost for importing oil and fuel is 93% of our combined domestic exports.

How can we attain sustainable development develop with an energy tax like that? We are one of the least developed nations on earth and must pay nearly US 25 cents per kilowatt hour. In the Unites States and Europe you pay what? 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour? Can we ever hope to compete in a global economy when we suffer an energy cost disadvantage of 500%?

But our islands have wind and sun and geothermal and hydroelectric potential. We could develop this potential and use these energy sources to create distributed energy systems and make our own fuel from water and burn this fuel in highly efficient, non polluting hydrogen fuel cells. A distributed energy system like this would transform our economy, enable even very remote islands to enjoy the blessing and development that electricity brings.

And this brings me to our win-win solution,  the offer we make to the industrial countries of the world to assist in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Send your experts in renewable energy and hydrogen technology to Vanuatu and provide us with capital to purchase these technologies from your own industries. We will be a testing ground where your research and development people and your renewable energy and hydrogen technology industries can devise and install fully integrated 100% renewable energy and hydrogen technology economies.

Our benefit, of course, would be rapid and environmentally sound and sustainable development.

Your benefit would be significant subsidies to your own renewable energy and hydrogen technology industries; subsidies that will help your own countries advance quickly into a new era of energy, bringing new employment opportunities as well as a healthier and more peaceful environment. On top of these benefits, you will profit from carbon credits and the knowledge that each dollar you provide will reduce the impact of your current energy policies and gradually loosen your own economic grid-lock on oil.

Yes, Vanuatu is a small country, but we have many islands and many villages on each island. And we are but one small island developing state that can be the focus of a global initiative to attain - somewhere on our planet - true 100% renewable energy, hydrogen based economies.

This is the message we wish to bring to the Sixth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. If the industrial countries provide the funding and the expertise and work in partnership with all of the small island developing states of the Pacific Ocean, fully one hemisphere of the planet will be on track to a clean energy future for our world. Then the objective that has united the small island developing states of the world will be met, because the industrial nations will follow our example and carbon dioxide emissions will fall rapidly as the new technology moves from the islands to the rural areas of the more populated nations and finally reforming the energy systems of the cities.

 The government of Vanuatu subsequently passed a cabinet resolution to achieve 100% renewable energy economy.

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