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L’énergie dans le développement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

Yves Le Bars
Elsa Faugère
Philippe Menanteau
et al.

New Caledonia’s international integration

Strategies for New Caledonia’s international integration

Texte intégral

1This approach presents two main complementary constraints which make it very original. Firstly, this integration should be coherent on the question of energy in relation to which New Caledonia shares the same interests as the emerging countries of the greater Asia-Pacific region, and on aspects related to climate change, which place it in an unusual situation. Secondly, in 2009, New Caledonia does not have the competence to implement foreign policy as this is exercised by the French State: The Institutional Act only allows it to become an associate member or observer of international organisations but this competence is subject to France’s approval.


2From a regional point of view, New Caledonia takes part in different organisations, either directly, via the intermediary of France or with France. These may be forums which enable them to jointly progress on questions of energy and the climate by showing a coherent position. These formal relations are organised by the French State, mainly by the High Commission and the Ministry of Overseas Affairs which invite representatives from New Caledonia to take part in some meetings. Existing relations between New Caledonia and other Pacific States resulting from population movements, trading relations, cultural similarities, school exchanges, cross investments do not appear to be the subject of a systematic strategy.


3New Caledonia takes part in many regional organisations. The one with the widest scope of competence is the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) which is composed of the Pacific islands, including the large countries (Australia, New Zealand, United States) but there are other authorities with overlapping powers. A study is under way to bring groups together to use available resources better.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

4This is the oldest regional cooperation institution to which New Caledonia belongs, as does French Polynesia, in an individual capacity. The SPC deals with three main fields: land resources (agriculture, forestry, food safety, etc.), marine resources (fisheries, navigation, oceanography) and social resources (demography, health). Energy issues are not addressed as such but are included in studies on global changes. However, the central theme of discussions is the vulnerability of the islands faced with environ-mental changes.

5For the moment, the SPC is not interested in energy issues in their entirety: instead it promotes classic forms of development cooperation based on targeted and financed programmes. However, a report published in 2006 underlines the fact that environmental problems facing Pacific islands are inter-related and insists in particular on the difficulty in accessing energy and the energy-dependence of most islands.

The South Pacific applied Geoscience Commission (Sopac)

6This commission has addressed several aspects of energy, particularly via the Pacific Islands Energy Policy and Strategic Action Plan (PIEPSAP), a programme which, between 2004 and 2008, concerned the formulation of energy policies, the development of renewable energies and energy efficiency. Teams provided Small Island States with advice on how to formulate their energy policies but New Caledonia did not take part in this study.

The Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)

7This environment organisation also analyses climate change and its impact on Small Island States in the Pacific Ocean, without really tackling GHG emissions.

The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)

8The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council is a tripartite partnership of senior individuals from business and industry, government and the academic world in 26 Pacific economies.

9This organisation focuses on subjects related to the development and economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region. It relies on a large network of 26 PECC committees, including an associate member which is France via its Pacific territories (New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna). Its role is to improve cooperation and coordination in the fields of trade, investment, finances, industry, human resources, etc. and to provide information and analytical support to the working groups of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). Objectives concerning the promotion of trans-Pacific economic cooperation are covered by various task forces. One of these task forces is conducted by the French Committee and specifically focuses on renewable energies and water management.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC):a strategic vision of energy

10Unlike the PECC, APEC is a regional institution comprised of 21 Pacific Rim countries, particularly the emerging Pacific countries and major powers (United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea). Indeed, APEC defends free trade between its members and hopes to pull down all trade and investment barriers between its member countries as soon as possible – a position that corresponds to the United States domination on this forum.

11At the same time, APEC is the international organisation which has the most comprehensive approach to energy issues, with the aim of ensuring energy supply security for its members. There are groups that monitor energy in the short and medium term and various trading procedures. The Nautile initiative, in particular, brings energy players from different countries together to share prospective references and instruments: constructing a shared vision of the area’s energy issues and sharing it with the stakeholders is absolutely essential – New Caledonia cannot ignore it.

12APEC also organises simulations of energy crises in member economies with a view to developing joint responses via the pooling of stocks. OECD member countries (which must comply with IEA recommendations of 100 days of stocks) have larger stocks than small States which do not have the storage capacity.

13Taking part in these initiatives, even as an observer, may be to the advantage of New Caledonia which in many respects resembles the emerging Pacific countries.


14There is very little formal bilateral cooperation between New Caledonia and the countries in the region, although there are numerous relations with Australia, New Zealand and the small Pacific islands with which immigration is significant, particularly Wallis and Futuna. Obviously, this issue goes beyond that of energy but energy has its role to play in this area.

15France has different means of cooperation, particularly with Australia and New Zealand, starting with its diplomatic network. There are many scientific and technological connections between France and Australia, supported by several programmes. Moreover, France intends to reinforce its cooperation with Pacific Ocean countries, by leaning on its overseas collectivities and using resources from the European Development Fund (EDF).

16New Caledonia could definitely take advantage of these different programmes to benefit from the dynamics of the scientific and technological research with Australia and New Zealand and to use them as a support for the development of initiatives in favour of other Pacific islands.

17This is not just a matter of projecting a good image but more generally of placing New Caledonia in a favourable position in terms of unconventional renewable energies and innovative transport solutions in the archipelago and towns, and contributing to the development of the island States. Inversely, New Caledonia cannot allow itself to be seen as a country with one of the biggest per capita GHG emission rates, in an area where global environmental changes seem to be extremely threatening, without also proposing solutions to reduce GHG emissions and/or adapt to environmental changes.


Ways of integrating New Caledonia into the regional framework, outside the Kyoto Protocol

18GHG emissions in New Caledonia are mainly produced by the nickel industry and its other economic activities. With the increased production of nickel – two new plants have started up –, GHG emissions will definitely increase.

19By adopting various measures, emissions from other activities could certainly be reduced but would not offset increased emissions resulting from increased production of nickel, because these emissions will probably only stabilise around 2015 or 2020. It will then be possible to start stating objectives to reduce GHG emissions for the whole of New Caledonia. Therefore, until then, it may be a good idea to find a way of distinguishing emissions attributable to the production of nickel and those resulting from other activities. Decision 14 CP7, adopted for Iceland within the framework of the United Nations, allows this distinction to be made.

Activities not related to the nickel production sector

20Like all towns and regions in the world, New Caledonia can reduce its GHG emissions voluntarily and let it be known. Moreover, the towns and Provinces could no doubt initiate cooperation projects as part of the twinning arrangements with other towns or countries of the region.

21At this stage in the study, it is also possible to draw inspiration from the national communication of Iceland which contains eight sections. The first section describes the national specificities of Iceland and the second one provides information on the country’s GHG inventories and the changes underway. The third section outlines the policies and measures adopted in the country to reduce or limit GHG emissions (sectors examined include energy production, transport, fisheries, industry, waste and agriculture, as well as action related to the sequestration of carbon and the research underway). The fourth section presents scenarios of emission trends which take account of possible policies and measures. The fifth section concerns the impact of climate change and possible adaptations. The sixth section discusses the way Iceland fulfils its obligations towards developing countries (official aid and technology transfers). The seventh section mentions research and observations related to the climate and the last section refers to communications policies directed at the population.

Activities related to the nickel production sector

22In this scenario, there is no binding commitment to reduce or limit GHG emissions; therefore New Caledonia will not have to offset increased emissions resulting from the production of nickel. However, it may be a good idea to highlight the research projects on the geological sequestration CO2 in “Emissions and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in New Caledonia” if these projects are accepted. It is essential to develop this type of technology if world GHG emissions are to be halved by 2050.

23If this is achieved, it will be possible to continue using coal, one of the world’s most plentiful and cheapest fossil resources. It is particularly abundant in Australia and Indonesia: there would be mutual benefits justifying joint programmes. This could then lead to capture and storage technologies being transferred to other regions of the world, e.g. Papua New Guinea.

The Kyoto Protocol does not apply to New Caledonia

24For the moment, New Caledonia does not have to implement the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. In theory, international treaties, to which France is party, apply to all its territories, including overseas territories, unless otherwise expressly stated.

25When the Kyoto Protocol was published by decree on 22 March 2005, France issued a statement excluding its application to overseas territories on the grounds that they are not members of the European Community. Yet, the Protocol does indeed indicate in article 26 that “no reservations may be made to this Protocol”. Thus, France’s statement raised some questions. These questions proved to be unnecessary from a legal point of view but contributed to the understanding of the territorial applicability of the Kyoto Protocol.

26Indeed, the territorial provision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome instituting the European Community specifies that its measures apply to French Overseas Departments, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. As for Overseas Countries and Territories, however, they are subject to specific association agreements, but the Treaty of Rome does not apply to them. Consequently, Community Law does not apply to New Caledonia.

27However, France still remains accountable for New Caledonia by way of the Convention on climate change: thus under the Convention, it declares all emissions, including those of New Caledonia, in accordance with United Nations regulations.

28Moreover, it should be added that articles L. 229-1 to L. 229-4 of the French Environmental Code relating to the greenhouse effect and to the prevention of risks linked to global warming do indeed apply to New Caledonia.

How could New Caledonia join in negotiations on the climate, if it so wished?

29After 2012, New Caledonia may wish to join in negotiations on the cli-mate in order to demonstrate a stronger position internationally and regionally with regards its participation in GHG reductions and benefit from the related mechanisms. What are the different scenarios?

Scenario 1: status quo

30By doing nothing, New Caledonia would not be acting illegally because the texts do not apply to it. At the moment, it fulfils its obligations towards the Convention via France, because only countries can become members of the United Nations. In this scenario, New Caledonia does not have to make any formal commitments to limit or reduce its emissions. Obviously, this would make it pointless to adopt the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms to offset emissions. In the short term, this means it would not have to make extra inventories of variations of soil and forest carbon stocks to fulfil its obligations under articles 3.3 and 3.4 of the Protocol.

31Due to this fact, large companies that emit great quantities of CO2, like the nickel sector or the centralised production of electricity, are outside the scope covered by France’s NAP. Thus, it would not be possible to sell or buy emission credits or take part in CDM projects or Joint Implementation (JI) of projects of countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

32Yet, nothing would prevent these coal-intensive companies from financing, if they so wished, projects to reduce emissions in developing countries, providing the host countries agree, but this would be outside the international commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. If they wanted, they could also improve their brand image by buying emission reductions on a voluntary market.

33How could this status quo be justified? First of all, it should be noted that coal-intensive industries carry much more weight in New Caledonia’s economy than in the economies of large regions or countries (United States, Europe, France, etc.). In the case of the United States, they only represent 6% of total CO2 emissions, 3% of economic activity and 2% of jobs. In New Caledonia, the situation is very different: in 2006, nickel represented half, if not more, of GHG emissions, 11% of VAT and 97% (of the value) of exports.

34Moreover, not all nickel producing countries have the same obligations. New Caledonia is currently the world’s leading exporter of nickel oxide. Cuba, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia and some other countries of the tropical belt also export it, but as they do not belong to annex B of the Protocol they are not currently obliged to reduce their emissions. South Korea imports ore from New Caledonia and exports products containing nickel. However, Russia, Canada and Australia, which produce nickel sulphide, belong to annex B countries: therefore these countries must reduce their GHG emissions.

35Can this situation continue in the long term? This will depend upon the pressure exerted by the international community, neighbouring countries and nickel producing and exporting countries whose plants may have to reduce their emissions. Therefore, within the framework of the Kyoto agreements made after 2012, it is important to keep an eye on changes made for the exporting countries and facilities (free emission credits, lighter taxation, etc.) that they may grant their carbon-intensive industries.

Scenario 2: New Caledonia wishes to join discussions related to the Kyoto Protocol

36As the situation stands at the moment, this integration could only be possible with France which has the international status of a State and is authorized to conclude treaties within the framework of the United Nations or with other states. The French Republic is free to associate any territorial institution in the negotiations or even in the procedure that takes place prior to the ratification or approval of any treaties, but not in the actual conclusion of agreements.

37But this poses the same kind of problem as that mentioned above: if France signs the next protocol in the framework of the European Union, as with the Kyoto Protocol, New Caledonia will be excluded from it. No doubt, the only solution would be for New Caledonia to join in the revision of the future protocol which will come into force in 2012. To do this, a way must be found to allow France to integrate part of its territory with specific status, while at the same time allowing France to continue fulfilling its commitments, if necessary, in its capacity as a European Union Member State, and thus in the framework of joint commitments with other Member States. Otherwise, France should negotiate commitments which are specific to New Caledonia but distinct from French commitments, even if the agreement is signed by France for New Caledonia.

38Negotiations related to the Kyoto Protocol should raise the question of pooling its quotas with those of Metropolitan France: given the status of New Caledonia, and if the European Union accepts it, specific quotas for New Caledonia which are distinct from France’s quotas, should be negotiated. This would also make territorial players more accountable, even if France would still bear individual liability as a State. In any case, it would be in New Caledonia’s interests to join in negotiations, within the French delegation.

39In this scenario, two means of integration can be envisaged:

  • With access to the European Union’s emission trading market, New Caledonia would have to carry out the various inventories requested, particularly those related to land use and change of use. Therefore, it would have to limit or reduce its emissions, like Metropolitan France, but outside of the European “burden sharing” system and in accordance with special methods to be negotiated. The increased emissions granted to New Caledonia would then have to be offset by a greater effort at reducing emissions by Metropolitan France or Europe.

40New Caledonia’s nickel industries and centralised electricity producer which use large amounts of fossil fuels would then probably be asked to reduce or limit their emissions within the framework of the NAP. To achieve this, they could save energy and reduce CO2 emissions within their company, or else call upon the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol (CDM or JI projects and emission trading markets).

41If emission credits are auctioned, at least partially, by the European Union, as is envisaged for 2012, New Caledonian companies should in theory buy them. But how many should they buy? What exemptions could they be given? Could one stress the need to balance New Caledonia’s trade deficit or highlight its special status in order to obtain free emission credits or even partial or total exemptions? Could one demonstrate that there is a risk of the activity being relocated or subject to unfair competition if these companies had to buy emission credits? The Commission is currently collecting opinions on this question online.

42Since December 2008, there has been a “climate package” for Europe and commitments to reduce 1990 levels of emissions by at least 20% between now and 2020. If other countries also made commitments, the European Union could be even more ambitious in its emission reductions.

43Under these conditions, what could New Caledonia really obtain from the European Union? Would it be possible to implement a burden sharing system that would be to the advantage of New Caledonia, like in 1997? Failing such a sharing system, which country would have to offset New Caledonia’s increased emissions? It would probably be Metropolitan France.

  • Without access to the European Union’s emission trading market, one of the options of the previous emission reduction scenario disappears. Would New Caledonia’s access to voluntary carbon markets then be closed? The answer is probably yes. However, this point should definitely be tabled for discussions at negotiations with France and the European Union. It could serve as an argument to facilitate New Caledonia’s access to the European market (thus taking up scenario 1). However, the question of how to share the burden between Metropolitan France and New Caledonia would remain.

An approach similar to that of Iceland for the period after 2012

44New Caledonia could also adopt an approach based on the one adopted by Iceland, a small country belonging to the United Nations with which it has a lot in common. The resolutions made within the framework of the Kyoto negotiations did not suit Iceland: as it was unable to change the general approach, the United Nations therefore adopted decision 14 CP7. The reader can get an idea of this country’s obligations with regard to decision 14 CP7 by consulting Iceland’s National Communication to the United Nations, on the website​media/​PDF_skrar/​Icelands_Fourth_National_Communication_and_Report_on_Demonstrable_Progress.pdf

45By referring to this decision and acting like Iceland, but not formally subscribing to the Kyoto Protocol, New Caledonia could demonstrate, in the Asia-Pacific region and internationally, that this approach is perfectly legitimate because it complies with decisions taken in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.

46Such an approach would not necessarily mean that New Caledonia becomes a member of the United Nations formally and directly; however, it would imply that it is gradually meeting all the obligations of the Convention and the revised Kyoto Protocol for the period after 2012, particularly the inventories under articles 3.3 and 3.4.

47In this scenario, one should remain attentive to the new constraints and opportunities likely to arise. One should also stay informed about whether decision 14 CP7 is renewed after 2012 and how it is renewed and what commitments Iceland will then make.

48The advantage of this solution is that New Caledonia’s industrial development would become compatible with the spirit of the fight against global climate change. It would not have to buy emission credits. The disadvantage is that New Caledonia would not be able to carry out CDM or JI projects but this is no doubt only a minor disadvantage in this case. However, it would still be able to carry out voluntary projects outside the formal framework of the United Nations.

49An analogy can also be made with Greenland which became independent in 2009. This country’s situation can be compared to that of New Caledonia because it has also been outside the European Union since 1985. Therefore, it would be a good idea to stay regularly informed about this country’s intentions and about the state of its negotiations with Denmark, especially regarding the commitments made for the period after 2012.

50In any case, New Caledonia could perfectly well make communications on the climate inspired by Iceland’s communications; these could be integrated into France’s national communications to the United Nations.

Integrating New Caledonia into discussions – the consequences on its governance

51No specific body has yet been given explicit responsibility for “climate” and “greenhouse gases” issues and the allocation of responsibility for environmental protection is very vague and incoherent. There is a complicated interweaving of responsibilities between the French State, New Caledonia, the Provinces and communes. An authority should be put in charge of these issues which require specific human and financial resources.

52Although the fight against greenhouse gases and climate change is part of environmental protection, it would seem inappropriate to allocate this responsibility to the Provinces, because it falls within the scope of overall territorial policy which should be centralised. Moreover, questions concerning climate change cannot be subject to different and inconsistent regulations or initiatives within the same territory. To become legally effective, this jurisdiction must be explicitly integrated into the Institutional Act of 1999.

53After that, New Caledonia could reorganise its administration either by creating a specific department or by integrating this responsibility into an existing department, i.e. the energy department could become the “energy and climate” department because discussions on these two subjects are very closely linked (see current examples of energy-climate plans). This department should also integrate agricultural and forestry activities which are included in the overall GHG emissions count.


54New Caledonia can take action in a variety of fields to consolidate its energy security, gain access to advanced technologies and reinforce its international credibility, while at the same time protecting the competitiveness of its export industries.

55To achieve this, it would first of all be a good idea to approach all international relations in a global manner (as all the regions within Metropolitan France do) with other priorities and other perspectives. Leverage on the French diplomatic network is a powerful asset that could effectively further the territory’s interests.

56To be able to adopt this consistent position, prior studies need to be carried out and New Caledonia needs to have an expertise capacity in the joint themes of energy and climate and in the procedures of international action in a legally complex situation. This also involves revising the governance of the energy-climate sector: this is the subject of the last part of the report.


57For details of the recommendations set out below, please refer to the recommendation sheets which are collated at the end of the report following the “Conclusion and recommendations” section.

581. Build a hub of local skills addressing regional issues in the fields of energy (including imported or potentially importable energy, such as wood or biomass) and climate, with the possible support of the University and research institutes present in New Caledonia and in the Pacific region. Create or support specific research programmes (including theses and dissertations).

  • Developing shared and verified representations at regional level is a precondition. This objective extends from training in citizenship (what sort of regional environment do we live in?), to the training of managers of different levels and different backgrounds (companies, education, government, etc.). Initiatives in the field of scientific discussion within the Pacific region contribute to this, as do existing relations between training and research bodies in New Caledonia and their counterparts in Metropolitan France and other countries.

592. Consider all the possible scenarios for the integration of New Caledonia into climate negotiations. Build up monitoring capabilities, starting with climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. Assess the possibility of drawing up a climate plan and an inventory of emissions for New Caledonia (see recommendation 1 in “Emissions and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissionsin New Caledonia”).

  • It is in New Caledonia’s interests to think about how it wants to join the climate negotiations, in accord with the processes underway. The complexity of the files requires a certain amount of research and learning. The first step could be to appoint a representative in charge of monitoring negotiations in Copenhagen and capitalising on experiences.

60Likewise, New Caledonia could start drawing up its own inventory by following existing formats. This would enable it to assess what information is available and to acquire more information.

613. Build strong and coherent international action with French diplomacy. Take advantage of existing relations, especially bilateral relations in matters of energy and climate with research and educational networks. Make innovative proposals on these issues in regional forums. Make information on New Caledonia’s experiences available to Island States. Tackle regional cooperation (with Australia and New Zealand) in terms of exploration and possibly geological storage of CO2.

  • New Caledonia can benefit from France’s diplomatic network and from existing informal relations to build a consistent regional cooperation policy on energy and climate. This would allow it to have the best technologies – for the capture and storage of CO2 for example – and also to compare its own courses of action with initiatives taken by countries in the region and to promote innovations in the fields of energy and the climate. It is only under this condition that it will be able to play the leading role incumbent upon it due to its high per capita income.

624. Reinforce energy security within the regional framework. Assess the possibility of cooperating with APEC countries in the field of energy. Conduct joint exercises on energy security (crisis management). Provide appropriate supervision for the activities of companies working in the field of energy, particularly oil exploration.

  • New Caledonia is in a similar situation to that of its neighbours in terms of its energy security and vulnerability. Therefore, it is in its best interests to pool, as far as possible, any tool and, management instruments and – where necessary - crisis response procedures.

63New Caledonia could take part in some energy/climate-orientated regional forums as an observer in order to take advantage of their dynamics. It could also adopt well-reasoned regulatory measures according to the positions of its neighbours, regardless of whether they are partners or rivals.

© IRD Éditions, 2010

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