Wednesday, June 12, 2024


South Pacific: Cook Islands Going 100% Green by 2020

Threatened by the prospect of destructive climate change, a tiny island nation has decided to set a 100% eco-friendly example for the rest of the world to follow.

(Image from Wikipedia)

Sixteen small islands compose the remote Cook Islands, but the main island of Rarotonga – population 14,153 – is where the action is. Home to the country’s international airport, house of Parliament, and the relatively bustling capital city of Avarua, Rarotonga is the beating heart of this proud Maori nation. A little-known but gorgeous tropical destination with plenty to see and do, tourism is a main part of the Cooks’ economy, drawing in more than 90,000 visitors each year. Those who love the islands for their pristine coral reefs and unspoiled landscapes will be pleased to hear that by 2020, the country plans to lay claim to a unique title: the most eco-friendly country on earth.

(Rarotonga Image by Marcus Gleinig)

Like most South Pacific isles, the Cooks, despite the scenic mountain peaks on Rarotonga, are primarily low-lying coral atolls. Strongly concerned about the prospect of rising sea levels and stronger storms due to climate change, the country has been an active participant in groups such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a broad-based organization of Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific island nations. Devoted to raising global awareness of the impact climate change will have on vulnerable islands, AOSIS lobbies world powerhouses like China, the USA and EU – in essence, the developed countries most responsible for carbon emissions – to adopt stricter pollution standards and find new sources of energy.

If the plan laid out by Henry Puna, the prime minister of the Cooks, goes as planned, his little nation will soon be serving as a shining example of just how far “going green” can be taken. In a recent interview with the Inter Press Service (IPS), an advocacy-oriented new agency, Mr. Puna outlined his goals and the challenges that lay ahead for this ambitious project. While the Cooks actually have a very small ecological footprint to begin with, the country is highly dependent on foreign aid, and will be starting virtually from scratch; they have little renewable energy to start with, and a limited internal capacity to build it for themselves.

(Rarotonga Image by Marcus Gleinig)

There will be definite advantages for the Cooks if the 2020 goal is achieved, however. Not only will tourists rest easy that their favorite sun-and-scuba holidays will remain unspoiled, but the country, which currently spends half of its national budget on oil and diesel as primary fuel sources, will save a significant amount of capital over time. Mainly, Mr. Puna hopes that the Cooks’ profile will rise and its citizens will be proud, and that the world’s powerful nations will be inspired by their achievement. The project has already received support from Japan, New Zealand, and the United Nations Development Programme. But all else aside, said Mr. Puna, “Knowing we are taking action helps us feel good even if the world does nothing.”

Read the interview with Prime Minister Puna here: IPS News

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