The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization dedicated to supporting countries’ efforts to adopt renewable energy, and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations specialized agency for tourism, have joined forces to promote the use of renewable energies in Islands.
In a Joint Statement on Renewable Energy and Tourism in Islands, released at the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa, IRENA and UNWTO commit to encourage investment in cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions that reduce the reliance of islands on carbon-emitting fossil fuel.
Islands are burdened by high energy costs due to their reliance on costly imported diesel fuel. In spite of efforts to improve energy efficiency, more than 90% of SIDS’ energy consumption is met through oil imports, which represent up to 20% of their annual imports. Many islands have goals to expand the use of renewable energy options and reduce this oil dependency. Since tourism is an economic mainstay for many islands, investment in such options by hotels is key to achieving these goals. Renewable options for water heating, air conditioning and electricity generation can cut hotel operating costs, advance sustainability while making them more appeling for tourists.
The Statement also calls for hotels to document the energy savings and cost reductions from these applications and to share the information through the Global Renewable Energy Islands Network (GREIN). Finally, it recalls that greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is fundamental to build a more sustainable, competitive and resilient tourism sector worldwide, and particularly, in islands.
In signing the Statement, IRENA Director General, Adnan Z. Amin, and UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai paved the way to cooperation with hotels and tourism authorities in pursuit of these aims. “Investment by island hotels is vital to demonstrating the business case for renewable energy, which is essential to addressing the burden of costly fossil fuels that inhibits islands’ economic and social development” said Mr. Amin.
“Tourism is a primary economic sector for many SIDS and a dominant force driving inclusive socio-economic growth. Yet, sustainable tourism development in small islands continues to face many challenges; one of the major ones is their high dependence on fossil fuel. The synergy of tourism and renewable energy represents a powerful force that will pave the way for win-win solutions in driving the sustainable agenda of islands forward”, said Mr Rifai.
In 2013, 41 million international tourists visited the SIDS, generating US$ 61 billion in foreign earnings. Tourism accounts for over 20% of the GDP of 16 out of 48 SIDS for which data is available and 9% of total SIDS exports.