Tuvalu-thirty pieces of silver to betray our people?

This is another blog based on the REEEP SEAP series of Pacific islands for an 2012 encyclopaedia.

The Polynesian island of Tuvalu is well known for its engagement against climate change because the second smallest island nation is highly vulnerable to the effect of global warming. Some 10,000 people live on 26 km2, and 95% of households have access to electric power.

The low-lying small island developing state (SIDS) will be hit hardest by rising sea-level and has little to hold up against this. Its highest elevation is 4.5 metres (15 ft) above sea level and only the Maldives are lower-lying. Many have left the island as climate change migrates already. By 2011 modern day life has badly reduced fish stocks. Saline seawater seeped inland the capital of Tuvalu, due to rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

Consisting of reef islands and true atolls (the exact  number of each is disputed), the state is not only threatened by rising sea levels, furthermore due to the ozone depletion (ozone hole) increased UV light is thought to slow down growth of corals. Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere turn to hydrogen carbonate  in the water which is suspected to affect the calcium carbonate that gives the island its stability.

A passionate speech at the COP15  in Copenhagen (2009) gained Tuvalu the support of other low-lying small island as they hoped for a binding agreement that could save their livelihoods. Tuvalu established its role as a leader for SIDS by targeting 100% electricity from renewables by 2020.

Even though several renewable sources have been tapped into, like a new 40kW e8 solar photovoltaic power plant, the island is largely dependent on imported petroleum and hence very vulnerable to price fluctuations.

Lately it has become clear that the 100% target can only be reached in conjunction with efficiency measures that reduce energy demand, and responding policies are starting to take grip.

At the end of the day though, the influence of the island’s own mitigation measures is only marginal, and they are at the mercy of the big industrialized states. Some Tuvaluan has lost all hope for a future on the island, and apparently many of the  island’s beaches are covered in rubbish. Poor coastal management is affecting sustainable development on the island.

Will Tuvalua last? At COP 15, Tuvalu’s spokesman Ian Fry was one of the strongest critics of the final (and disappointing) document, stating “It looks like we are being offered thirty pieces of silver to betray our people and our future.

Original articles by REEEP SEAP.

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