Galapagos Islands ecuador
The Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO natural heritage site that is home to around 33,000 inhabitants and the world’s second-largest marine reserve, received more than 267,000 tourists last year. Markus Gebauer Photography/Gettyimages

A group of numerous scientists and academics convened on Ecuador's Galapagos Islands to strategize a roadmap for achieving a "zero-carbon" energy transition on the Pacific archipelago on Monday, Jul. 3.

During the two-day "Summit for the Sustainable and Inclusive Decarbonization of the Galapagos Islands," those experts will present the results of investigations conducted as part of the "Galapagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation" initiative and come up with a road map that is to be presented to the Ecuadorian authorities.

The living-lab action plan, which was initiated during the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, was jointly launched by Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), the University of Edinburgh, and the British Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce.

Esteemed speakers at the event will feature experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based in Geneva, as well as representatives from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center located in Tennessee, United States.

The Galapagos Islands, recognized as a UNESCO natural heritage site and housing approximately 33,000 residents, also boasts the world's second-largest marine reserve.

However, despite its ecological significance, the energy supply in the Galapagos heavily relies on fossil fuels, with imported diesel and gasoline serving as the primary sources of fuel for tourist vessels.

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power make up only a small fraction of the overall energy mix.

In light of this situation, the gathering aims to prioritize the implementation of renewable energy systems.

The discussions will focus on exploring the feasibility of utilizing green hydrogen and electric engines to power boats, offering potential solutions for reducing the carbon footprint in the region.

Ecuadorian Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition Minister Jose Antonio Davalos, along with Ecuadorian Deputy Energy Minister Marcelo Jaramillo, USFQ President Diego Quiroga, and the University of Edinburgh Principal and Vice-Chancellor Sir Peter Mathieson, participated in the inauguration of the event.

Davalos emphasized that climate change has evolved from a looming threat to an undeniable reality that necessitates collective action from the public and private sectors, academia, and the scientific community.

Highlighting the significance of the Galapagos Islands as a national treasure, Davalos stated that Ecuador's government is actively developing a National Transition Plan towards Decarbonization.

He expressed that the Galapagos Islands provide an ideal platform for advancing towards this objective, with the collaboration of scientists and academics.

Jaramillo reiterated Ecuador's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality, aiming to reach a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, La Prensa Latina reported.

He emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships to work collectively towards this ambitious goal.

Mathieson expressed optimism that the gathering would play a significant role in Ecuador's and the international community's transition to renewable energy, while emphasizing the crucial importance of preserving valuable assets like the Galapagos Islands.

Alfredo Balarezo from the Energy and Materials Institute at USFQ, the organization behind the symposium, along with the Galapagos Science Center and the "Galapagos Living Lab for Energy Innovation" initiative, highlighted the need for the archipelago to become an international symbol of progress in the energy transition, similar to its reputation in the field of conservation.

The Galapagos Islands, consisting of 13 major islands, six smaller islands, and numerous islets and rocks, gained fame through the explorations of 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin.

Darwin's observations of the islands' unique wildlife inspired the development of his groundbreaking theories on evolution, natural selection, and the origin of species.

Situated around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are home to over 7,000 endemic and native species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

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