Today I went to a meeting of Pacific Island States. People slipped their feet out of their shoes during the talk – it felt like home. In Hawaii, the audience would have blended right in, unlike other regional packs like the Africans or the indigenous amazoneans. It may have felt like Hawaii belonged, but they are not even on the radar. New Zealand seemed to be the focal point, a member that might also be a source of technical or other aid. The only other source of aid that attended was Japan.
We share similar climate problems, but our relative prosperity provides us with more options to go green and to protect ourselves from the consequences of climate change. Also, we are not a nation state. These countries are focused on coming up with their individual targets for CO2 reductions which are due in March. It is deeply unfair, as they have contributed little to the problem of climate change, but still many ambassadors in the room want to do their part. They point out that their small size (like Hawaii) provides an opportunity to achieve goals large countries cannot. They can aspire to go 100% renewable for electricity. Where there is less hope is in the transport sector, which for the poorest islands is most of their energy use.
The best hope pointed out for land-based transport is biofuel. For boats they use to go between islands, increased efficiency is all that is on the horizon. Experts are seriously talking about going back to sailing, but people just laugh.
We have some real differences. As the ambassador from the Solomon islands said, the majority of his people do not have electricity at all, so renewables would be a rise in the standard of living, not a switch. Electric cars were not even mentioned, and in places where few own cars, they are already using public transit, bikes or feet.
What is different is our economy, but our geography is similar. The impacts of climate change will be similar. Like us, fossil fuel is just an expense, not a business, so there is no lobby fighting to preserve it. The planning process they will go through is similar to what our legislature has already done with our clean energy commitments. As we implement, I hope the lessons we learn can be of use to our nearest neighbors. At least we had a chance to enjoy the fossil fuel boom and be part of the problem, they did not.