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July 24, 2024

Pacific youth want Australian energy commitments ahead of Pacific Forum Leaders Meeting


24 July, 2024 Pacific launches Our Pawa campaign, spotlighting Australian climate commitments and the Pacific energy transition

Pacific – Today, young Pacific islanders launched Our Pawa – a campaign focussed on accelerating a safe renewable energy transition in the Pacific and Australia. A month from the 53rd Pacific Leaders Forum Meeting in Tonga, Pacific and the Pacific Climate Warriors highlighted the importance of renewable energy access in the Pacific, and Australia’s role in its realisation. Despite relatively negligible carbon emissions, Pacific island countries like Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and the Solomon Islands have 100% renewable energy transition targets in the next 10 to 15 years. Overall, renewable energy capacity in the Pacific has increased by 30% between 2014 and 2022. 

Sera Saini, Fiji Coordinator says,

“The world is waking up to the fact that we can’t continue burning fossil fuels if we want to survive. But as a 21 year-old, I want to ensure that I will still be able to power my home, attend university and build a life for myself after we’ve phased out fossil fuels. To me, Our Pawa is about making sure that while the rest of the world is shifting to renewable energy, the Pacific doesn’t get left behind. Our leaders have set ambitious targets for our Pacific island countries, we need global support to make these a reality.” 

With the theme “Transformative Resilient Pasifiki, Build Better Now”, this year’s Forum Leaders Meeting provides Pacific leaders with the opportunity to chart the future for the Pacific, and what role neighbours Australia and New Zealand will play in it.

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Managing Director says,

“We are ready for the renewable energy revolution, and the Pacific is already leading the way towards a Just Energy Transition. The obstacles we face are financial resources, technical assistance and maintaining renewable energy systems in remote islands. This is where countries like Australia must come in. While they have plans to decarbonise their domestic energy systems, Australia still exports vast amounts of coal overseas, ultimately exporting climate catastrophe to the Pacific. It is only right that, while they accelerate their own renewable energy build, they support those most impacted by their fossil fuel industry to do the same.” 

Currently the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter, Australia is hoping to position themselves as a renewable energy “superpower”. Pacific Islanders living in Australia and abroad are concerned that, if not done correctly, this quest for net zero may leave vulnerable communities behind and First Nations peoples bereft of their land and water resources. The Our Pawa campaign outlines a set of principles that can guide the renewable energy transition in Australia, and that takes into account Pacific peoples concerns.

Jacynta Fa’amau, Pacific Campaigner says,

“Australia has all of the resources to lead the renewable energy transition, but it also has so many lessons from the mistakes of the fossil fuel industry. Indigenous peoples in Australia have lost land, water access and livelihoods to coal mines and gas fields. Any steps towards renewable energy must avoid these mistakes, and ensure the wellbeing and involvement of Indigenous communities – or they will just be another extractive industry labelled as “green”. There also needs to be an element of job security for workers, as they transition from the fossil fuel industry into renewable jobs. There are so many Pacific Islanders that work in Australia’s mines, and they shouldn’t have to choose between the future of their islands and putting food on the table. These are all the priorities of the Our Pawa campaign and how we hope to build a safe and sustainable future.”

At the UN Climate talks in Dubai last year, countries agreed to triple renewable energy by 2030 and double energy efficiency. Our Pawa is a response from young Pacific islanders that insists that the Pacific’s energy transition must happen on our own terms and for our benefit.

About Our Pawa

Our Pawa is a coordinated effort from youth activists in 15 Pacific Islands, as well as Australia, New Zealand and the USA, to build a region powered by community-centred renewable energy. The campaign includes a petition for the Australian energy transition to consider five Pacific priorities:

  1. Power up safe and equitable renewable energy 
  2. Ensure job security for workers
  3. Establish fair training and migration pathways for Pacific Islanders
  4. Finance a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific 
  5. Raise climate goals in 2025

For more information on Our Pawa and related actions, visit the website.

Images available here.


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Drue Slatter

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