It’s been clear here at the World Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, is fast emerging as a leader in forging a more sustainable energy future. With 159 countries—plus the EU— having joined it, a staff of 70 and a $28-million annual budget, IRENA held its third Executive Assembly here, making an impressive show on the sidelines of the summit. One example is its Renewable Energy Roadmap, which attracted lively interest among delegates.
|The ocean represents transport, food, culture and livelihoods for people of the Pacific.|
A few years ago in Papua New Guinea on a holiday I was lucky enough to spend a day with a fisherman who took me out on his dugout canoe. For hours we slowly skimmed along the surface of the ocean, the clear water providing a wonderful lens to the world below teeming with life. Fish, starfish, coral, eels, plants—a world beyond my wildest imagination.
He pointed out the plants he ate and others he used as traditional medicine. He showed me innocuous-looking creatures that would spell certain death. He showed me the craggy hiding hole of the tail-less crocodile that was the lead character in village folklore. He showed me the fish he caught that fed his family and provided him with an income and how his father had taught him to catch them, like he too had taught his children.
In South Tarawa, life takes place along a road.
It is Kiribati’s capital and main atoll, made up of several small islands connected by a string of causeways. The atoll is about three meters above sea level—roughly the height of a bus—and has an average width of just 450 meters.
It is also one of the most densely populated places in the Pacific: this narrow stretch of land encompasses about half of the country’s population of 110,000 people.
Just one road runs through it all, connecting Betio in the west to Bonriki in the east. People live beside it, it takes people from village to village, to schools and hospitals, people sell their goods by the roadside, and the flow of vehicles and people is constant.
As a junior member of the team who produced the forthcoming East Asia and Pacific companion to the World Development Report 2012 “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific”, I was excited to present its findings in the Pacific. After spending months reading, writing, reviewing and revising our findings and content, I had a plethora of questions waiting to be answered about the impact of our work: How would our audience receive it? Will our findings, based on painstakingly collected data and research, be adapted to the reality of gender and development in their country? Will they be able to use these reports to continue working toward gender equality in all aspects of life? Will our reports help people, namely women, lead more productive and fulfilling lives?
Last month I went to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji with the rest of the team to share and discuss our findings with members of government, the media, civil society, students and our donor partners.
Kiribati isn’t your usual country. It’s unusually beautiful, for a start, especially from the air, on a bright clear day, with the dazzling blues and greens of tropical sea and jungle. Its geography is also unusual, consisting of 32 atolls, and one coral island, spread over an almost-inconceivable 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean.
|Rainfall is essential to recharge the freshwater lens that lies beneath coral atolls in Kiribati. Without it, the i-Kiribati people would not be able to grow plants and crops vital to their livelihood.|
Freshwater can be extremely scarce in the Republic of Kiribati, home to over 100,000 people scattered across 22 islands in the Central Pacific. Each year after a long dry season, significant rainfall is generally expected to arrive during November or December. Yet over the last few months only a tiny amount of rain has fallen. The islands are dry.
This is consistent with forecasts that predict La Niña conditions will result in below normal rainfall during the 2010-11 wet season across the Gilbert Islands of Kiribati.
The World Bank employs a variety of specialists in different disciplines, often with abstract and hard to understand titles. Not me. When people ask what I do for the Bank I say “I build roads”. This often brings laughs from other Bank staff, but it’s true.
Over time I have developed certain ‘home truths’. Among them is that the size of the country is inversely proportional to the length of the immigration and customs form, and the aggressiveness of dogs encountered when running is a reflection of their owners. In both cases this was proved true during my first mission to Kiribati. A tiny country in the Pacific ocean some half-way between Sydney and Honolulu, it has the largest immigration and customs form imaginable.
When it comes to climate change, many believe the world's poorest people in developing countries will be affected the worst. A "micro-documentary" contest hosted by the World Bank's Social Development Department challenged filmmakers from around the world to highlight the social aspects of climate change.
Several of the contest entries focused on countries and peoples in the East Asia and Pacific, including the third-place film about one of the last remaining peat swamp forests in Aceh, Indonesia.
After the jump, watch another film depicting the climate crisis in the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.
|Kiribati is the easternmost country in the world, and was the first country to enter into the year 2000.|