Palau can’t reverse climate change on its own

A senior energy sector official from Palau believes international donors are using a “cookie cutter approach” to renewable energy in the Pacific instead of tailoring programs to suit each island’s needs.

Tutii Chilton, Team Palau’s Archery Coach, works for Palau Energy Administration, the regulatory body for Palau’s energy sector. 

The PEA is also the nationally determined contributions focal point, measuring the countries efforts to cut down carbon emissions in line in with the Paris Agreement.

Palau hopes to generate 45 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. 

Mr Chilton said the urgency around climate change action has led international funding agencies to put the pressure on small island states to carry out projects quickly, rather than correctly.

“You cannot do a cookie cutter project everywhere, yet they do it anyway because it is the easiest to manage,” he said.

“Unfortunately, they go with efficiency rather than go with what actually works, in terms of managing the funds.”

He said he would rather see more funding go to one country’s renewable energy pilot project, to prove something works before it goes “full scale.” Then it can be confidently applied to every island in the region.

There is no appetite for pilot projects, just full-scale ones, Mr Chilton believes.

“They come in and say we have got to meet our nationally determined contributions so let’s do it in full scale. But we don’t need to rush,” he said.

“Yes, climate change is an issue if we don’t do anything about it, but the issue is not us small islands who need to do something about it.”

Large carbon emitting countries need to step up on their renewable energy projects before the pressure is applied to small countries like Palau. 

Mr Chilton called it a “conflict” between small and large countries, and their relative efforts to curb their carbon emissions. 

“I feel sometimes that our efforts won’t even make a dent,” he said.

“It makes a dent on our everyday life, maintaining our lifestyle in such a way we don’t feel like we are contributing to the emissions, and climate change issues. 

“But it doesn’t make any sense to me when the five nations in the world who are contributing over 60, 70 per cent are not even trying. They are blatantly not even trying,” he said.

Mr Chilton said Palau is seeing scarily frequent typhoons. They used to come around once every twenty years but occurred in 2009 and 2010. The winds are changing and are unpredictable, affecting fishermen and their methods.

“Our climate change office told us that we are getting super tides, which are a little bit higher and are affecting the shorelines,” Mr Chilton said.

“Of course the biggest issue we have is water. We have had droughts a few years in a row.”

Those who can afford it are moving to higher ground, he said, but there are many who have no choice and still live on the coast. 

Everyday luxuries like air conditioning and owning cars might become a thing of the past, he added.

“The other thing we don’t talk about is transport. We talk solar panels but that’s not even half of emissions, it’s these,” he said, gesturing to the packed carpark around the archery field.

“We will look good, pretending that we have renewable energy, we look good saying we have technology.

“But at the end of the day if they don’t change we won’t have an island to live in.”

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