The tiny island nation of Tuvalu, situated in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, already under threat from rising seas caused by global warming, has vowed to fuel its economy entirely from renewable sources by 2020, according to The Associated Press.
Many nations have pledged to cut their carbon emissions since environmental concerns have set in, yet none so small have come out with such a big statement.
Many waving the green-flag for energy hope that this kind of move can inspire bigger emitters like the United States and China to take bolder steps to reduce their carbon footprints.
“In a sense, they are paving the way for medium and larger economies which have to move if we are going combat climate change,” said Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program.
Climate scientists have urged rich countries to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by between 25-40% by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of warming, which they say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.
For its part, Tuvalu hopes to replace the fossil fuels that it imports by ship with solar energy and wind power, a project that it expects will cost somewhere in the region of $20 million.
Tuvalu is already fairly environmentally conscious, emitting next-to-no greenhouse gasses, yet the increased threat of flooding caused by global warming has caused it to make the bold move into the 100% renewable energy world.
The country is just 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) in size, with most of its land less than a meter above sea level.
So far, Tuvalu has installed a 40kW solar energy system with the help of Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8, an international nonprofit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.
“There may be other, larger solar power installations in the world, but none could be more meaningful to customers than this one,” Takao Shiraishi, general manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co., said in a statement.
“For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival,” he added.
The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial $410,000 project from 40-60kW, and will extend solar power to outer islands, starting later this year with the commission of an $800,000, 46kW solar power system for a secondary school. The Italian government is supporting the project.
“We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in those international negotiations,” Public Utilities and Industries Minister Kausea Natano said in a statement.