Electrifying Vanuatu’s islands using solar, powered by carbon finance

May 2, 2023

PORT VILA and GENEVA — The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and the Government of Vanuatu have authorized the first carbon reduction project in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu, helping to reduce its carbon footprint while at the same time promoting sustainable development and reducing poverty in remote communities. The initiative is one of the first to emerge from the opportunities created by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which allows for the use of cooperative approaches, such as internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs), to increase ambition and promote sustainable development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the authorized entity to facilitate the implementation of the provision.

Vanuatu's geography makes it difficult to create centralized energy systems, which leaves many communities and islands needing electricity, hindering development and forcing the use of fossil fuels for lighting. Only 20 percent of Vanuatu's rural residents have access to electricity. Yet, the country's GDP grew from US$267M in 2001 to US$914M in 2018, leading to its graduation from the Least Developed Country status in December 2020 -- further demonstrating the massive potential for local economic development through improved energy access.

UNDP interim Resident Representative Dawn Del Rio said the project presents a significant step forward for the region in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in terms of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy for all. “UNDP is proud to support this partnership with Switzerland to electrify rural communities in Vanuatu with solar power,” she said. “By leveraging the benefits of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, this project will not only bring clean and sustainable energy to those who need it the most but also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”

Antony Garae, Director of the Vanuatu Department of Energy, said this project is a great boon to his country, where 80 percent of rural residents lack electricity. “Solar is the best solution for these areas not only because of its obvious contributions to climate change mitigation but because fuel is costly and difficult to transport,” he said.

Alexandra Soezer, Manager, UNDP’s Carbon Payments for Development Facility, said it is encouraging to see countries taking advantage of the Paris Agreement's opportunities. The CP4D Facility facilitates payments for the purchase of up to 6 million ITMOs from carbon mitigation projects on a verified, ex-post basis. “By collaborating on projects like this electrification initiative,” she said, “countries like Vanuatu can work with the international community to address climate change while promoting sustainable development and ensuring access to clean, renewable and affordable energy for all."

For more information: carboncooperation.undp.org  

Media contact: 
Emily Moli, Communications Analyst, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji; emily.moli@undp.org