GTI Observatory Task Force Launched for Islands to Lead the Way in the Mediterranean’s Energy Transition
Athens, Greece, 20 January 2024 – On January 19, Greening the Islands (GTI) Foundation organised two sessions at Circle the Med – the Mediterranean Forum 2024, a renowned platform for discussing sustainability in the region.
The first session focused on the energy transition in the Mediterranean (MED), exploring how islands can supercharge it through their strategic role as crossroads for climate diplomacy and adaptation, energy exchanges, and international cooperation.
As the world needs to triple renewable energy capacity to 11 Terawatts (TW) by 2030 – a global target spearheaded by the Global Renewables Alliance (GRA) and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that was included in the final text of COP28 – a regional objective of 1 TW emerged as feasible for the MED.
From the preliminary talks at Circle the Med, the GTI Foundation will bring the discussion forward with the Union for the Mediterranean to the Our Ocean Conference later in 2024.
During the session, Greening the Islands announced the launch of a dedicated task force within the GTI Observatory to engage islands and relevant stakeholders in contributing to the MED’s energy transition, and champion the region as a green hub for renewables and circular economy.
The speakers that took part in the event organised by GTI at Circle the MED will be the first members of the group, which will be dedicated to analysing challenges and identifying opportunities for islands to advance their renewable energy capacity, originating studies and recommendations for policymakers to accelerate the regional transition.
“The task force on the Mediterranean will bring the debate on a stable and structured footing to help accelerate the regional energy transition, showcasing how islands can lead the way in the race to 100% renewables”, said Gianni Chianetta, Chair of Greening the Islands Foundation. “I am glad for the successful first step in the MED for our 100% RES Islands Initiative, a global journey involving islands around the world to create case studies for fully renewable systems.”
The discussions drew insights from a distinguished panel of experts, policymakers, local stakeholders, and global leaders of the green transition:
- Hon. Miriam Dalli – Minister for Environment, Energy and Regeneration of the Grand Harbour, Malta
- Francesco Corvaro – Special Envoy for Climate Change of Italy, Ministry of Environment and Energy Security
- George Kremlis – Honorary Director European Commission, member of the Board of the EPLO, President of its Circular Economy and Climate Institute
- Grammenos Mastrojeni – Senior Deputy Secretary General in charge of Energy & Climate Action, Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)
- Julia Souder – Chair, The Global Renewables Alliance (GRA) & CEO Long Duration Energy Storage Council (LDES Council)
- Dr. Jauad El Kharraz – Executive Director, Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE)
- Abigail Cutajar – Advisor, Energy and Climate Change, Ministry for Environment, Energy and Regeneration of the Grand Harbour, Malta
- Joseph Borg – President of INSULEUR (Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the European Union)
- Claudia Guzzon – Executive Secretary of the CPMR (Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions) Islands Commission
- Attilio Piattelli – Energy Specialist, GTI Observatory, Greening the Islands Foundation & President Coordinamento FREE
- Gonzalo Piernavieja – Research & Innovation Director, Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC) – Technical Partner Greening the Islands Foundation
- Iyad Kayali – Sustainability strategist and trainer, Green Destinations Foundation
- Evangelos Bekiaris – Director, Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT); Vice President, Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH)
The GTI Foundation 100% RES Islands Initiative was presented, including a case study with the island of Rodrigues (Mauritius), as an opportunity for Mediterranean islands to be frontrunners in the development and dissemination of small and even large renewables projects, innovative financing mechanisms, and integrated policies.
“Islands are leading the way in taking positive efforts to decarbonize and move towards clean energy economies. The GRA looks forward to working with GTI and its partners to achieve our shared goals. Our six clean energy industry organizations are striving to strengthen our partnerships and deploy more renewables to ensure island communities continue to thrive”, said Julia Souder.
The second session focused on the circular economy nexus with sustainable tourism and on the role of islands as crucial laboratories for innovative business models and integrated policies. The importance of monitoring mechanisms to assess progress toward circularity and decarbonization was stressed, such as the GTI Observatory Global Index, currently being applied to Gozo (Malta), as well as Rodrigues and Curacao as integral part of the 100% RES Islands Initiative.
Experts and diverse stakeholders underlined how the circular economy presents an opportunity to boost prosperity in the Mediterranean region and contribute to ending conflicts and mitigating the migrant crisis. A multistakeholder approach is pivotal for the success of all the actions, engaging the public and private sectors, as well as communities.
The sessions led by GTI Foundation remarked the strategic significance of small islands as leaders in the race to 100% RES in the MED and beyond. They offered opportunities to showcase islands’ progresses on offshore renewables, grid infrastructure upgrades, sustainable tourism practices, and green finance instruments – such as the success case of the Maltese green bonds.
“Malta, as the smallest island state within the EU, is continuously seeking to be a pioneer in cutting-edge circular solutions, promoting innovative business models and policies to stimulate a green economy. Amplifying cooperation for the energy transition among islands and the Mediterranean shores is a strategic move that aligns with our commitment to sustainability”, said Hon. Miriam Dalli.
Although key technologies are mature, the need remains for simplification of project authorisation procedures as well as for streamlined access to finance. Furthermore, new layers of diplomacy focused on climate change are necessary, to stimulate super partes international cooperation to rise above tensions among countries.
“With COP28, the urgent need for a substantial enhancement of the role of climate diplomacy within the international arena has become apparent. If climate diplomacy does not succeed in overcoming the historical divisions that hinder different international actors from coming together and persuading them that the environmental issues we are facing are more crucial than the numerous reasons that keep them apart, we will never be able to effectively tackle the challenge of our era: safeguarding our shared home. Consequently, we will continue to witness many more COPs with outcomes that consistently fall short of the necessary standards”, said Francesco Corvaro.
Cooperation on a scientific level is already in place in the Mediterranean and it will be increasingly important to build on the EU’s experience in policy and regulation in order to accelerate the region’s green transition.
“Putting together resources in a Med-wide community – like solar energy or crops – will allow adaptation while fostering a more balanced economy among the rich and the poor of the region”, said Grammenos Mastrojeni.
“By leveraging its natural resources, promoting innovation, and fostering regional cooperation, the Mediterranean region can make a significant contribution to tripling global renewables capacity by 2030 and achieving a sustainable future. Mediterranean islands can act as catalysts for the energy transition, showcasing the potential of renewable energy, enhancing energy resilience, and contributing to sustainable development in the region. Their unique characteristics make them ideal laboratories to implementing innovative solutions that can be replicated on larger scales”, said Jauad El Kharraz.
The event also provided an opportunity for GTI to share updates on the international programs it is involved in: the EU Horizon MAESHA and RETOUCH, and the Interreg Dialogue4Tourism. These projects proved particularly relevant to the discussion as they highlight the benefits in improving policies, critical resource management, and power grids performance while preserving environmental and cultural heritages in the Mediterranean islands.
Greening the Islands remains committed to driving positive change in the Mediterranean region by promoting sustainable practices, fostering collaboration, and raising awareness about the challenges and opportunities that islands face on their journey towards a sustainable future.