Sea level rise may seem abstract to many of us, but if you live at sea level, on a tiny nation, surrounded by oceans, it tends to concentrate the mind. That's especially true if your nation has done little to contribute to the problem of global climate change, and yet you are facing the brunt of the consequences.
That's the situation that the Pacific island nations find themselves in, but they are not taking it lying down. Having played a vocal role in pushing the world to adopt an ambitious target of keeping average temperature changes to no more than 1.5 degrees at the Paris climate summit last year, the nations are now looking to build on this significant victory.
The Guardian reports that the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) is considering the world's first treaty to ban or phase out fossil fuels. While the treaty is unlikely to be adopted until 2018 at the earliest, the very fact that it is being seriously considered is yet another signal that we're shifting into a new era of low carbon energy.
Included in the proposals are mitigation targets in line with the 1.5 degree goal, a commitment to not approve any new coal or fossil fuel mines, and to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel mining or consumption. The treaty proposal also commits to “universal access” to clean energy by 2030.
Of course, the fact that Pacific islands are disproportionately impacted by climate change is just one reason that they are incentivized to lead on clean energy. The other reason is very simply that fossil fuels cost an awful lot when you have to ship them from across the ocean, when you have a small population that can't take advantage of economies of scale, and when you are relying on inefficient technologies like diesel generators for the production of electricity.
The economics of clean energy are getting more competitive everywhere. For small island nations, however, they look very compelling indeed. And that's even before you factor in the disastrous, existential threat that business as usual represents.