Like many small island developing countries, Kiribati and Samoa, face a number of challenges, including how to grow to achieve sustainable development, and how to manage the effects of natural disasters and climate change. This project examines how new types of renewable energy (like solar, wind, and hydro services) can assist Kiribati and Samoa to cope with the effects of natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The project also explores how renewable energy can support these countries manage the effects of climate change, such as, increased sea levels and powerful sea surges, increased temperatures, and changes to rainfall.

The project is broken into three main parts. The first part consists of a literature review on the topics of resilience and the adaptive capacity of communities to manage a range of risks. For this project, ‘adaptive capacity’ means the social, economic, and environmental resources that communities can call upon to strengthen their ability to deal with risks like natural disasters and climate change. Using the knowledge gained from the literature review, the second stage of the project, involves our researchers going to discuss the role of renewable energy and resilience with key stakeholders in Kiribati and Samoa. Once we have gathered this valuable information, the team will analyse the data, and put forward some recommendations regarding opportunities for new renewable projects that will improve the well-being of the people of Kiribati and Samoa, and strengthen their ability to manage natural disasters and climate change.

While initial findings from the literature review points to Kiribati and Samoa increasing the use of renewable energy, this project seeks to explore what new opportunities exist for renewable energy that will enhance the resilience of these countries now and into the future.   The research team is aware that while Kiribati and Samoa share some common attributes and challenges related to climate change, differences in their physical environment mean that renewable energy solutions may differ for each country. A key focus of the project is to explore where and how new renewable projects can strengthen the ability of Kiribati and Samoa to manage risks. This will include exploring how renewable energy can support key infrastructure, including the provision of freshwater water and the management of waste. Our team will listen carefully to the views and ideas of stakeholders and report back by the end of July 2018.

Here are further details on the project.

We propose to identify renewable energy opportunities that will strengthen the capacity of communities in Kiribati and Samoa to respond and adapt to disturbances and stresses from the effects of natural disasters and climate change. Our conceptual framework is guided by a participatory engagement approach based on the WHO’s emphasis on the environmental determinants of health and sustainable development.

Our proposal firstly involves undertaking a literature and document review that explores the contribution of renewable energy to resilience and adaptive capacity from existing projects, to analyse what can be learnt from prior developments and research in this area. This will be followed by key informant interviews and discussions on the ground in Kiribati and Samoa to elicit critical evaluations of local solutions on how communities can become more resilient to managing risks from climate change, extreme weather events and natural disasters. Our proposal overall seeks to build community capability, and support training and empowerment of services and solutions, that incorporate renewable energy at a local level.

It is within this context that this project seeks to answer the following research question: What renewable energy opportunities exist in Kiribati and Samoa that will strengthen community capacity in these countries to manage the effects of natural disasters and climate change?