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Marshall Islands releases map to decarbonize power by 2050

The Marshall Islands today released their plan to reduce electricity emissions by over half in just seven years, with further reductions leading to net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Republic of the Marshall Islands Minister for Environment, Hon David Paul, launched the Marshall Islands Electricity Roadmap at the global climate summit COP24 in Poland this morning.

“The Marshall Islands is calling for ambitious action by all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was one of the first countries to prepare and submit a long-term decarbonization pathway under the Paris Agreement.

“We continue to lead the way with the release today of our long-term Electricity Roadmap which once again shows how even the smallest of nations can take ambitious action to create a safe and prosperous future for all people,” Minister Paul said.

“The Electricity Roadmap is easy to understand and shows how other countries large and small might also make the decarbonization journey,” he said.

The Electricity Roadmap presents well thought out, costed, technically sound pathways for the electricity sector to help achieve the Marshall Islands’ ambitious climate change targets for 2025, 2030 and to have net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

“To achieve these targets, it falls to the electricity sector to do most of the heavy lifting, and quickly. Over the next seven years, the Marshall Islands will go from a very modest two percent renewables, to over 50 percent renewables, cutting diesel use by half. This will come at a cost of around USD170 million,” Minister Paul said.

“It means reducing energy losses in the diesel generation and distribution network, improving energy efficiency, and building large-scale wind and solar farms on the main islands of Majuro and Ebeye,” he said.

“As for other small island countries, there are significant costs and challenges in decarbonizing. While the Marshall Islands is blessed with steady trade winds and abundant sunshine, these are intermittent and can’t be switched on when they are needed. This leads to the need for increased battery storage. Our islands are remote, which means there is a lack of access to equipment, technicians and training facilities. In addition, at high levels of renewables, the grid stability services traditionally provided by diesel generators need to be replaced with other technologies.”

For these reasons, the Roadmap also describes strategies to build a renewable energy workforce, encouraging the best Marshallese talent to train and study to work in the sector.

The Chief Secretary of the Marshall Islands, Ben Graham said: “Through this challenge, we can see a cleaner, brighter future for our people. To achieve our energy goals, we need the women and men of the Marshall Islands to become engineers, technicians and managers. With these skills we will also be in a better position to navigate the other challenges climate change brings of drought, storms and sea-level rise.”

New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change, Hon James Shaw, said New Zealand was proud to have supported the Marshall Islands in the development of the Electricity Roadmap.

“This not only sets an example that other countries may wish to follow, but shows that all countries, large and small, can, in fact, map out pathways to a low-carbon future.”

New Zealand and the Marshall Islands co-chair the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, a coalition of 19 countries whose goal is to develop ambitious climate strategies to meet the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement.

In September, the Marshall Islands was the tenth country and the first island nation to submit a long-term decarbonization plan, called “Tile Til Eo Climate Strategy”, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as called for under the Paris Agreement.

The Marshall Islands Electricity Roadmap is the result of 12 months of work by a wide range of people including key representatives from the Marshall Islands energy sector, a team of consultants specializing in island energy systems, and Marshall Islands’ development partners including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United States, and New Zealand.

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