Ecomobility Trending in Small Island States


Soldiers of the Kansas National Guard work to clear Road 123 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in support of recovery efforts after Hurricane
Maria, November 29, 2017 (Photo by Sgt. Alexis Vélez / Kansas National Guard)


The world's 50 Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, are among the most vulnerable places on Earth. Surrounded by oceans, they share sustainable development challenges, such as small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.


Climate change is forecast to increase their exposure to hurricanes, storm surges, extreme winds, and flooding. SIDS in the Caribbean, Pacific, Africa and Indian Ocean are particularly vulnerable. Their growth and development has been held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs.


Now, these small countries are joining forces to substitute renewable transport fuels for diesel and build back from disasters to strengthen their resilience.


"Islands are leading innovative solutions for the necessity of our people’s and countries' survival. Strong partnerships are critical to making these solutions a reality. I call on you to join our Global Island Partnership to work together to build resilient and sustainable island communities," said Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., president of Palau and leader of the Global Island Partnership.


The United Nations' annual climate summit was this year hosted by the small and remote Pacific island state of Fiji, although it was held in Bonn, Germany, the location of the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Climate Change, a more easily accessed location than Fiji for delegations from the nearly 191 nations who attended.


Fiji knows what it means to deal with natural disasters. In February 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Southern Hemisphere’s strongest tropical storm on record, blasted across Fiji, claiming 36 lives and destroying buildings, roads and bridges throughout the country.


All reports indicate the scale of destruction is beyond anything experienced before in Fiji,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, Fiji’s permanent representative to the United Nations.


This year, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated small island states in the Caribbean and the U.S. Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico.


Nearly all small islands states are totally dependent on fossil fuels for their transportation fuel. In small and isolated systems, small diesel units are preferred. But diesel has two drawbacks: high generation costs and high levels of pollution.


Although today most drivers in small island states fuel their cars and trucks with diesel, they contribute a miniscule amount of the total greenhouse gas pollution that drives climate change.


Yet many of these small island states are determined to lead the warming world out of dependence on fossil fuels and towards transport resilience.


Nissan began selling the all-electric LEAF in Puerto Rico in 2014, although with much of its power knocked out by Hurricane Maria in September, LEAF owners can't charge their batteries yet.


As of October 2015, Honda has been testing solar-powered charging stations for electric cars in the Marshall Islands, a island nation of 53,000 people. With support from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Honda and the Marshall Islands government are conducting a pilot test program using the charging stations and a small fleet of Honda Fit EV electric cars.


Results will determine whether more widespread installation of charging infrastructure throughout the Marshall Islands would be worthwhile.


Strategic Partners: Coastal Cities and Small Island States


Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA) debuted a new partnership at the COP23 climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany in November.


The partnership, Front-Line Cities and Islands, is a coalition of coastal cities and islands on the front lines of climate change, that are working to build resilience through coastal city-to-island partnerships.


At the heart of the initiative are coastal city-to-island partnerships that will pave the way for new and innovative planning and funding mechanisms that advance resilience, clean transport and energy, sustainable tourism and post-disaster recovery.


Among the first pairings is between Lautoka, Fiji and Bonn, Germany, host city of COP23. They will work together to address the vulnerabilities of islands, cities and their inhabitants.


Although they contribute to less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, small island states have few defenses in the face of climate change.


They face inundation from sea level rise, increased frequency and intensity of storms, heavy rainfall, strong winds, flooding and coastal inundation that damage roads and bridges, cutting off travel on the islands, sometimes for months.


Rapid urbanization in island towns can exacerbate impacts on fragile coastal and ocean ecosystems.


Front-Lines Cities and Islands will work to address these threats.


“Islands are preparing for and anticipating shocks and stresses, but more can and should be done. They are on the front lines of climate change and resilience building on these islands is critical,” said Gino Van Begin, secretary general of ICLEI.

Front-Line Cities and Islands is a step in the right direction, forging strategic partnership between cities and islands facing common climate-related risks and hazards.”


Front-Line Cities and Islands is supported by many regional and international agencies, including the COP23 Presidency. It is also championed by mayors and leaders of islands from Nadi and Suva in Fiji, the city of Cozumel in Mexico, Honiara in the Solomon Islands, Castries in Saint Lucia, Vacoas Phoenix in Mauritius, Palau and many others.


Palau itself is strengthening the resilience of marine ecosystems, Hawaii was an early mover on climate and sustainability and Cozumel, Mexico has shown leadership on sustainable, smart development.


Mayor Perla Tun Pech of Cozumel said, "We are here to unite our voices and thereby generate co-responsibility and commitment with the inhabitants of the world."


Resilient Transport Vital to Curb SIDS Disaster Losses


Students riding in the back of a truck along the road in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Second Road Improvement Project
will replace or upgrade about 30 water crossings, reconstruct about 20 kilometers of roads, and relocate some roads
for climate change adaptation across three provinces in the Solomon Islands. (Photo courtesy Asian Development Bank)




The transport sector can play a central role in reducing the vulnerability of SIDS finds a new report issued November 15 by the World Bank.


The report, entitled "Climate and Disaster-Resilient Transport in Small Island Developing States: A Call for Action," finds that damage to roads and bridges constitutes a major share of disaster losses in SIDS, resulting in huge fiscal strains for their small economies.


Transport often represents a large share of public assets in small islands. In Dominica, for instance, transport assets are valued at 82 percent of GDP. In Fiji, one-third of the total government budget is spent on the transport sector.


Transport is critical to the economy and for the provision of services to remote communities,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji's minister for economy. “Our transport infrastructure is already affected by climate change. There is an urgent need to develop tailored and climate smart solutions to improve the resilience of this sector. This report makes a valuable contribution by highlighting innovative solutions focused on small island developing states.”


According to the report, disaster vulnerability and costs in SIDS can be reduced by investments in transport asset management that factor in climate change and disaster risks.


This includes placement of transport infrastructure away from high risk locations, physical protection against hazards, application of innovative materials and construction designs, infrastructure maintenance, and deployment of early warning systems, among others.


The effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Caribbean are a stark reminder of how natural disasters can set vulnerable small countries back by decades,” said Franz Drees-Gross, World Bank director for transport and digital development.


As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, small island developing states face the urgent need to adapt. Resilient transport systems should be a priority in that effort, due to the large recovery costs and the critical role they play in all aspects of their economies.”


In addition to the direct costs of physical damage, limited economic diversification and low capacity to cope, aggravated by impaired transport systems, result in critical losses to residents' income and well-being.


Lack of transport can compound human and economic losses, and greatly delay restoration of critical services such as access to schools and hospitals.


World Bank researchers find that the adoption of a transport resilience package could reduce losses. In Tonga, for example, the report finds such a package could reduce well-being losses by as much as 25 percent.


SIDS will need better access to financial instruments, the report notes. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), managed by the World Bank, provides risk finance and transfer facilities, but the report finds these efforts need to be strengthened and complemented by additional financial resources to enhance the resilience of transport systems.


What makes resilient transport especially critical for SIDS are the large recovery costs, the dependency on infrastructure for which there is no redundancy, and the major role transport systems play in their economies.


Transport often represents a large share of public assets in small islands, for example in Dominica transport assets are valued at 82 percent of GDP, and in Fiji, one-third of the total government budget is spent on the transport sector.


The good news is that it is possible to reduce disaster vulnerability and costs in SIDS. Resilient transport policies alone could decrease the impact of natural disasters on population well-being by 13 to 25 percent in small island countries.


To achieve this, it points to a new strategic approach to investments in transport asset management, which factor in climate change and disaster risks, such as placement of transport infrastructure away from high risk locations, physical protection against hazards, application of innovative materials and construction designs, infrastructure maintenance, and deployment of early warning systems.


Using many real case studies from across the globe, and with key contributions from numerous SIDS, the report lays out a path forward for replicating best practices and deploying resilient transport infrastructure in SIDS.


As Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Minister of Economy of Fiji, commented during the launch, “Small Island Developing States bear the brunt of climate change, in some cases threatening their very existence. The report is a valuable contribution to help countries such as Fiji respond to this ever more urgent challenge, adopting solutions tailored to our special circumstances, and mobilizing the needed international adaptation finance.”


Download the full report at:


Southeast Asia Cool on EVs, Warm on Biofuels



Fruits of the oil palm tree yield a combustible biofuel that can power vehicles. January 20, 2017
West Kalimantan, a province in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.
(Photo courtesy Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR)



The latest Southeast Asia Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) provides detailed energy projections and analysis to 2040 for a region that is increasingly influential in global trends and that has growing engagement with the International Energy Agency.


The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) represent one of the most dynamic parts of the global energy system, and their energy demand has grown by 60 percent over the past 15 years.


There are many encouraging signs, says the International Energy Agency report. Countries across the region have made major efforts in recent years to upgrade policy frameworks, reform fossil-fuel consumption subsidies, increase regional co-operation and encourage greater investment in the region’s considerable renewable energy potential.


But much more remains to be done.


Electricity is the main source of growth in final energy use and accounts for the largest share of the increase in final consumption, the report predicts. Two-thirds of the increase in Southeast Asia’s electricity demand comes from the residential and services sectors, largely due to a rising urban middle class.


Industrial electricity demand more than doubles by 2040, pushed higher by the lighter industrial branches that are a mainstay of the region’s economic activity.


"One area where electrification makes less progress is the transport sector," the report states. "In the absence, for the moment, of supportive policies, electric mobility does not gain much of a foothold in our projections."


Instead, energy use in the transport sector remains dominated by oil products, with policy efforts to diversify the mix focusing on biofuels.


Biofuels can bring energy security and environmental benefits, although that would require that palm oil production is managed sustainably, an important policy issue for the main producer countries, Indonesia and Malaysia.


A July report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says Southeast Asia has considerable resources to produce liquid biofuels sustainably, using biomass feedstocks that would not cause carbon dioxide emissions or interfere with food supply.


Fulfilling the region’s biofuel potential would depend on increased residue collection from food crops and forest products, intensified cultivation of farmland, and reducing waste and losses in the food chain.


With conversion to advanced liquid biofuels, sustainable biomass feedstock could potentially cover two-fifths of the region’s projected needs for transport fuel if less were diverted to residential heating and cooking. An assessment by the bioenergy team at IRENA, predicts that advanced biofuels could provide as much as 7.3 exajoules of primary energy a year in Southeast Asia by 2050, or half of the region’s total primary bioenergy potential.


The practice of using palm oil for biodiesel is common among oil palm smallholders, who produce biodiesel to fuel transportation in their local area.


But cultivation of oil palm for biofuel is controversial because it occurs in some of the world’s most biodiverse areas. If peatland and forest are cleared to grow oil palm, not only can biodiversity in the area be harmed but a large amount of carbon stored in the forest vegetation and peat soil is released back into the atmosphere, negating the benefits of the reduced greenhouse gas emissions from burning the biofuel.


Download the IEA Southeast Asia Energy Outlook at:


Fiji Switching From Diesel to LPG


Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is a flammable mixture of propane and butane used as fuel in heating appliances, cooking equipment and vehicles. Autogas is the common name for LPG when it is used as a vehicle fuel.


The first LPG powered car was driven in Fiji in the mid-70s. The conversion of a Mazda Ute from petrol to LPG was carried out by Harvie Probert, who today serves as general manager of Fiji Chemicals Ltd and Tonga Gas Ltd. The first distribution for auto gas was in Walu Bay with Mobil. The adoption of LPG was slow in the early days.


It was not until the 21st century that LPG as a motor fuel took off in Fiji. Fiji Gas worked with taxi drivers to convince them that it is in their best interest to use a clean fuel. The company worked with the government to encourage the use of clean fuels in Fiji by making LPG powered cars duty free.


In 2006 the change in duty was made and since then the use of LPG has grown enormously. Fiji Gas has more than 20 auto gas outlets across thte island of Viti Levu. They opened their first outlet in Vanua Levu earlier this year and have plans to grow the number of auto gas outlets in the future.


At the turn of the century there were fewer than 100 LPG motor vehicles in Fiji. Now there are about 2,500. This growth has in LPG has come at the same time that the environment has become increasingly important to Fiji and the world.


Many people who consider LPG as an alternative to petrol do so because they believe that the combustion of propane results in lower CO2 emissions. But the jury is still out on this matter.


In fact, two recent studies found conflicting results in terms of the production of hydrocarbons from the burning of LPG.


The first study found a significant increase of CO2 emissions compared to petrol, and the other showed a slight increase at a low engine load but a considerable decrease at a high engine load.


There is no worse image for a tourist destination than to see a tourist in a taxi with filthy smoke issuing from the tailpipe. With auto gas that is a sight that no one will ever see.


LPG burns cleaner than petrol and therefore emissions of particulates are very low. LPG is non-toxic, non-corrosive and free of tetra-ethyl lead and additives.


Getting Practical: A Better Pavement Technology



Geo cell formwork for low-volume roads in Tuvalu and Kiribati 2017
(Photo by Oliver Whalley courtesy The World Bank)


Coral atolls in the Pacific islands are adopting innovative methods and materials to promote coastal protection and reduce vulnerability to sea level rise and storm surges due to climate change and tropical cyclones.


Tuvalu and Kiribati, supported by the World Bank, have been experimenting with a different type of pavement, using geo cells, for the construction of low-volume roads, and the technology has proven to be ideally suited to these remote island states.


Geo cell pavements can be constructed with local labor and portable equipment, using a high-density polyethylene (HPDE) formwork that is light and easy to transport.


Geo cell pavements use flexible plastic webbing made of high-density polyethylene into which concrete is poured, creating interlocking shapes that efficiently transfer traffic loads.


The result is a flexible sheet of concrete blocks which transfer wheel loads to the underlying soil. Each individual block is supported by surrounding blocks, spreading the load to the underlying subgrade.


While thin cracks form between the blocks, these don’t allow water pass through. The road surface can be set on compacted subgrade without laying down aggregate base and subbase layers, a key factor which contributes to cost savings compared with traditional pavements.


Constructing a geo cell pavement is simpler than laying a bituminous pavement, and it can be done using either labor or equipment based methods.


Oliver George Whalley, a project engineer with the World Bank, wrote in a February 2016 issue of "Connections" a weekly from the World Bank Group’s Transport & Information and Communication Technology Global Practice, "Developing countries need affordable options for extending paved road networks into rural areas. A versatile new construction method using low-cost concrete poured into flexible plastic webbing offers a promising alternative."


Geo cell pavements were developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1975 for erosion control, soil stabilization, and channel protection. Filling the cells with concrete and using them for pavement is a more recent development, brought to fruition with the help of research at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.


Geo cell pavements cost less to build and maintain than concrete, asphalt, or chip seal pavements, wrote Whalley.


Geo cells have recently been used in a World Bank project on the Pacific island of Kiribati, where 4.4 miles of pothole-ridden, unsealed feeder roads were upgraded with geo cell pavement.


The cost of supplying road construction materials to the remote coral atoll from Fiji, some 1,200 miles away, presented obstacles to traditional construction methods. Geo cell pavements offered the opportunity to save 28 percent of the cost of chip seal surfacing and 47 percent of the cost of asphalt.


The contractor noted long lead times for getting the geo cell formwork and reported difficulty achieving a sufficiently fluid concrete mix. But the challenges were resolved, and the new pavements have enhanced the accessibility of the communities they serve.


The success in Kiribati prompted the neighboring Pacific island nation of Tuvalu to employ geo cells in its new road project.


Whalley wrote, "The new pavement technology has been used in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and the Pacific, offering an affordable way to improve accessibility for poorer remote areas. Geo cell pavements that link rural traders and farmers to market centers could become an important tool in the effort to eliminate extreme poverty."


By Sunny Lewis – Environment News Service