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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Pacific islands embracing greater regionalism

The establishment of the Pacific–Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation (PACE-Net Plus) goes some way towards filling the void in science policy, at least temporarily. Funded by the European Commission within its Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (2007–2013), this project has spanned the period 2013–2016 and thus overlaps with the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (2014–2020). PACE–Net Plus sets out to reinforce the dialogue between the Pacific region and Europe, support biregional research and innovation through calls for research proposals and to promote scientific excellence and industrial and economic competition. Ten of its 16 members come from the Pacific region and the remainder from Europe. The UNESCO Science Report observes that ‘Pacific Island economies are mostly dependent on natural resources, with a tiny manufacturing sector and no heavy industry’. Moreover, ‘the trade balance is currently more skewed towards imports than exports, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, which has a mining industry’. Forestry is an important industry for both Fiji and Papua New Guinea, for instance, but it uses low and semi-intensive technological inputs. As a result, only a few limited finished products are exported. There is a need to adopt automated machinery and design in forestry and to improve training, in order to add value to exports. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has initiated several activities to tackle problems associated with climate change. These cover a great variety of areas, including fisheries, freshwater, agriculture, coastal zone management, disaster management, energy, traditional knowledge, education, forestry, communication, tourism, culture, health, weather, gender implications and biodiversity. Almost all Pacific Island countries are involved in one or more of these activities. The first major scheme focusing on adaptation to climate change and climate variability dates back to 2009. Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change involves 13 Pacific Island nations, with international funding from the Global Environment Facility, as well as from the US and Australian governments. According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, renewable energy still represented less than 10% of total energy use in the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories in 2015. The regional body observed that, 'while Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa are leading the way with large-scale hydropower projects, there is enormous potential to expand the deployment of other renewable energy options such as solar, wind, geothermal and ocean-based energy sources'. International development partners are participating in several projects to develop renewable energy in the Pacific island states. In April 2014, Pacific Ministers for Energy and Transport agreed to establish the Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, 'a first for the Pacific'. The centre will be part of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s network of regional Sustainable Energy for All Centres of Excellence

Source: UNESCO