…A com­mon ap­proach and strong re­gional in­stru­ments are sup­port­ing SADC’s is­land states which are most at risk from the im­pact of cli­mate change.

Observer on Saturday - - Analysis & Opinion -

t’s a blus­tery cloudy day in the town of Curepipe,afewk­ilo­me­tres­southofMau­ri­tius’ cap­i­tal Port Louis. But that doesn’t stop the Grade 13 girls of Hindu Girls Col­lege from climb­ing the stairs to the roof to show off their pride and joy – an ar­ray of so­lar pan­els.

It’s the school’s re­sponse to cli­mate change and they’re way ahead of their peers in most parts of the world.

School Rec­tor An­drea Gun­gadin is ex­cited by the project. “In 2011 our board mem­bers de­cided to start us­ing sus­tain­able en­ergy after the Mau­ri­tian gov­ern­ment had be­gun a cam­paign around th­ese is­sues,” she says. The school re­searched so­lar en­ergy and “the de­ci­sion was taken to set up a three kilo­watt so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tem on the roof of the school”.

Pho­to­voltaic cells con­vert the sun’s en­ergy di­rectly into elec­tric­ity which is then stored in a large bat­tery called an in­verter and pro­vides most of the school’s power needs. Mau­ri­tius has no oil or gas de­posits and has been forced to im­port diesel for large gen­er­a­tors which pro­duce elec­tric­ity.

The Cen­tral Elec­tric­ity Board, a gov­ern­men­towned com­pany, pro­vides around 40 per cent of the elec­tric­ity sold across the grid sys­tem with the re­main­der gen­er­ated by in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers. While most gen­er­a­tion is based on im­ported coal or diesel, some pro­duc­ers burn a mix­ture of agri­cul­tural waste from sugar plan­ta­tions and coal.

Mau­ri­tius’ elec­tric­ity de­mand is ris­ing at just over three per cent a year and an al­ter­na­tive method to pro­vide power is needed on an is­land washed by sun. It’s also ob­vi­ous to those in ed­u­ca­tion that this mes­sage needs to fil­ter down to cit­i­zens.

“We reg­u­larly take our stu­dents up there to look at the sys­tem and see that they’ll be able to use th­ese ideas in their own houses when they grow up and con­tinue with this vi­sion of a sus­tain­able Mau­ri­tius,” says Gun­gadin.

Other schools in the area – and from other SADC coun­tries such as Sey­chelles and Tan­za­nia – have copied the idea at a time when so­lar en­ergy is be­com­ing more im­por­tant as part of the

Ire­sponse to cli­mate change.

Grade 13 pupil Ur­mila Mo­tar recog­nises that the project is rel­e­vant beyond the shores of Mau­ri­tius.

“SADC and other or­gan­i­sa­tions have sup­ported al­ter­na­tive en­ergy and in this new mil­len­nium it’s very im­por­tant to note that projects like th­ese are the fu­ture,” she says.

An­other ex­am­ple for the in­no­va­tive use of so­lar en­ergy is found in Zam­bia, where the sun pow­ers agri­cul­tural wa­ter pumps. Just north of the Zam­bian cap­i­tal, Lusaka, farmer Elias Moyo ex­plained how he built his own so­lar pump.

“Now I can grow bread­fruit, toma­toes, chillies, onions and ochra. When it’s dry, I just start the pump on a sunny day and fill up the tank,” he says, point­ing at a large green plas­tic tank. For farm­ers like him, this means im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Recharg­ing

From recharg­ing mo­bile phones to sup­ply­ing en­ergy for lights so that school children can do their home­work at night, so­lar power im­proves count­less lives in the re­gion.

In Mau­ri­tius’ cap­i­tal, an early adopter of green en­ergy and one of SADC’s most en­thu­si­as­tic sus­tain­ableen­er­gy­ex­pert­sisEn­vi­ron­men­tMin­is­ter Eti­enne Si­natam­bou.

“Thechal­lenge­forMau­ri­tiu­sis­the­mos­tex­treme in SADC. If you looked at the UN World Re­port 2016, we are the sev­enth most ex­posed is­land coun­try in the world to sea level rise,” he said.

Other SADC coun­tries on the list of ex­posed coun­tries in­clude Mada­gas­car and Mozam­bique. “Al­ready we have seen ac­cel­er­ated sea level rise, ac­cen­tu­ated beach ero­sion, an in­crease in both the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of ex­treme weather and a de­creas­ing pat­tern in rain­fall so we are in re­al­dan­ger­from­re­cur­rent­floods,”saidSi­natam­bou.

“From 2003 to 2017, the sea level rise has more than dou­bled com­pared to the average for the last25years,andye­tour­rain­fal­llevel­has­dropped to pre-1930 lev­els, so we need to be care­ful.” 20 per cent of Mau­ri­tius’ beaches are suf­fer­ing from long-term ero­sion. For a coun­try which gen­er­ates over 30 per cent of its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct from tourism, this is a sig­nif­i­cant risk go­ing for­ward. As the for­mer min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs and re­gional in­te­gra­tion, Si­natam­bou is well placed to dis­cuss the role of SADC around the is­land na­tions.

“SADC is now as­sist­ing coun­tries in the re­gion with re­gard to cli­mate change,” he says. As an ex­am­ple, he points to the global cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions in Paris in 2015, where SADC pro­vided the plat­form for a com­mon po­si­tion.

The mem­ber states’ com­mon po­si­tion for the so-calledCOP21ne­go­ti­a­tion­sin­cludedanem­pha­sis on adapt­ing to cli­mate change while also fo­cus­ing on mit­i­ga­tion through fi­nance, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and adop­tion, and ca­pac­ity build­ing. For South­ern Africa as one of the re­gion’s most ex­posed to in­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures and chang­ing weather pat­terns, sta­bil­is­ing the amount of car­bon in the at­mos­phere while be­ing able to de­velop its economies is of para­mount im­por­tance. By speak­ing with one voice, the mem­ber states en­sured they were heard on the global stage.

Cli­mate change is also a key as­pect of the Re­gional In­dica­tive Strate­gic In­te­gra­tion Plan (RISDP) which is guid­ing SADC’s agenda un­til 2020. It has led to the for­mu­la­tion of re­gional ini­tia­tives like the SADC Pol­icy Pa­per on Cli­mate Change,theSADCWaterSec­torCli­mateChange Adap­ta­tion Strat­egy, and the SADC Cli­mate Change Strat­egy and Ac­tion Plan.

Si­natam­bou be­lieves that the mo­men­tum for

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