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Anna Elizabeth Tiraa

Cook Islands

Office of the Prime Minister Represented by

Anna Elizabeth Tiraa

Climate Change Director, Climate Change Cook Islands Division
Anna is a leader in climate change in the Pacific Islands, having more than two decades of experience in the field of development and environment. In 2011 she joined the Cook Islands’ Office of the Prime Minister to oversee climate change.

Share with us a game-changer programme that GCF could fund in the Cook Islands that would represent a paradigm shift?

Low-emission development is definitely a game-changer for the Cook Islands. Even though we have emissions, which are insignificant on a global scale, our actions can serve as a model for other countries. In this sense, islands are like laboratories—if the Cook Islands can have 100% renewable energy by 2020, which is a target we have set for ourselves, I see that as a great achievement. It shows the world that every country can take action to address climate change.

Converting to renewable energy is important for the Cook Islands and many other small islands, and we are already seeing the positive impact it is having. Take Pukapuka—one of the remotest islands in the world. Today the island generates all of its energy needs from solar, providing residents with comforts they did not have. In the past, fuel was transported by ship from the main island to Pukapuka. Shortages were common because of late deliveries. With solar, the islanders have power 24/7. The benefits are immediate.

What are the major challenges and opportunities in implementing the Paris Agreement in the Cook Islands?

Capacity and resources are significant issues for the Cook Islands and other small island states, and I am not speaking solely in terms of financial resources but human resources and capacity. Renewable energy technologies are not with us but with other countries, and we rely on external help in this and other areas. Ultimately, it would be good for Cook Islanders to have the capacity to also take the lead on the technical solutions aspect.

How do you foster effective partnerships?

Dialogue and communication are extremely important, and as a National Designated Authority with the Green Climate Fund our role is to help “connect the dots”. We can put people in touch with other experts in the climate change process. In this regard, it is very important for us to know what is going on, not just within our own country but at the regional and international level.

The April 2016 GCF Accelerating Direct Access week enabled me to get to know the different situations other countries are experiencing in implementing or in accessing GCF support. You often think you are the only ones going through the process, but it is at events like the April gathering where you realize you are not alone. It helped to highlight the different stages countries are at and the different situations they have.

What are some of the innovative ways the Cook Islands uses technology to engage communities and other local stakeholders in decision-making processes?

A huge challenge is the logistics of doing our work in an island country that encompasses 15 islands spread out over two million square kilometres. Related to this is the cost of travelling between the islands, to keep local populations informed and engaged in our collective efforts. If we have funding available, we try to bring people from the outer islands to meetings. Otherwise, web-based communication tools can help us by having people attend meetings virtually. That is something we are looking to do more of. But, at the end of the day, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions. A visit to local communities to hear directly their concerns and ideas remains invaluable.

Associated links

Cook Islands INDC submission