Driving inclusive growth in the energy and maritime sector across the Pacific
Vice President of Wallis & Futuna, Honourable Paino Vanai
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Transport of the Cook Islands Honourable Robert Tapaitau
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development of Solomon Islands, Honourable Manasseh Maelanga
Minister of Climate Change, adaptation, meteorology, geo-hazards, energy, environment and disaster management for Vanuatu, Honourable Ralph Regenvanu
Development partners and donors.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yadra Vinaka/good morning, and good evening to our friends joining from other parts of our global community online,
This morning’s breakfast storian (or dialogue) aims to amplify the call for inclusive growth in the energy and maritime sector across our Blue Pacific.
We talk about increased equity, and increased opportunities for women but I am here with my colleagues to show why this is an opportunity for us as policymakers who have a collective responsibility of working towards a sustainable and peaceful Blue Pacific for our future generations.
Inclusivity and diversity are about ensuring that no matter the role someone is in and how they contribute to their sector, they feel valued and they are able to meaningfully contribute to genuine transformational change.
I also call on you to consider the critical reality in which most of our communities live – where most continue to face the brunt of the global energy crisis in our region.
As a region, we share one Ocean. An ocean that provides the backbone for the livelihood of most Pacific peoples – for food, sustenance and for transportation. And it is the same ocean that now poses a real threat to our livelihood in the context of climate change.
It is because of this threat that during the 51st Pacific Islands Forum, our Pacific Leaders announced a collective aim to achieve carbon neutrality in the Pacific by 2050. Given such ambitious clean energy targets, the Pacific region is undergoing a clean energy transition that will result in abundant economic benefits.
However, when we consider equity this also includes practical access.
64% of Pacific peoples still lack access to electricity predominantly rural and remote communities, and whilst this presents challenges around equitable access, it also presents us with an opportunity to accelerate our efforts towards renewable energy initiatives for both our energy and maritime transport sector.
Again, we ask you, Pacific leaders, policymakers, scientists, development aid technicians and representatives of our Pacific communities to ‘leave no one behind’ but to realise the opportunity to stem challenges like our collective brain drain by accelerating access for our women and girls in non-traditional spaces such as maritime as seafarers or in energy as renewable technology engineers.
We need all hands on deck to achieve this transition so we aren’t left holding the cup of fossil fuel while the rest of the world has moved away from its reliance.
I also call on us to reflect on what an equitable transition to renewable energy will truly mean for our communities and how we can elevate women beyond just end users and fill the brain drain.
We need to have the hard conversations about what the data shows us about the employment of women in both the maritime transport and energy sectors and the low numbers of girls and women taking up science, engineering, technology or mathematics courses in our schools and universities.
We must understand it and we must find practical pathways that actually deliver increased access.
Studies show that inclusive and diverse teams make better decisions. Non-diverse teams are known to make the right decision about 50 per cent of the time but diverse teams make them about 87% of the time.
It makes sense that we invest in diversity even if it is uncomfortable for us as we must accelerate both access and decarbonisation before it's too late.
I challenge us to set the platforms that will enable any little girl or boy to have dreams as vast as our 42 million square kilometres Blue Pacific Ocean, and to be the stewards and guardians of foundations of safe and equitable maritime transport and energy transition.
As a people of the ocean, more than 50% of our communities live on remote outer islands as means of transportation for most of our Pacific peoples.
Moreover, even though our renewable energy sector is growing, now is the right time to ensure sufficient attention is brought to these issues and accelerated with gender inclusion at the fore of our regional and national navigation towards renewable energy growth.
Again, for a renewable energy future for all facets of our community to be sustainable, we must consider that ‘no one is left behind’ in our policy, national development plans and equal access to resources, employment and so forth.
We need to look at the resources we have and understand how to adapt capabilities so that when we turn off our diesel-generated power plants, our people have jobs.
Women have access to employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors who right now have much less access to employment than our Pacific men.
We take a moment now to listen, learn and understand from this morning’s panel, considerations on how we can envisage and activate a tomorrow, where we can do this together and collectively for a sustainable future.
Once again, a warm welcome to you all
Vinaka vakalevu and tankyu tumas