Electrification of the land transport sector in Fiji has been a growing point of focus in policy planning and development dialogues over the past decade. Despite a variety of investigations conducted at the behest of the Government of Fiji in coordination with development agencies and multilateral financing institutions operating in-country, market penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) remains minimal, particularly in the public transport sector. There have been instances where early adopters in the market have attempted to introduce electric buses and the regulatory market and infrastructure has been inadequate to facilitate their inclusion in the public transport vehicle fleet (Ravulo, 2015).
While perfunctory gestures have been made in the fiscal policy and budget space since these first efforts in 2015, domestic public sector policy initiatives and multilateral development sector financial investment priorities have not been transparent in their intended structure or sufficient in their scope to enable Fiji’s private sector-driven public service vehicle (PSV) industry to make the move towards electrification with sufficient confidence to commit capital expenditures to transition the fleet of buses and minibuses, or establish the additional capacity required to accommodate the operational expenditures required in retraining and expanding the technical and service personnel to maintain EVs in greater numbers alongside the existing internal combustion engine (ICE) fleet. Nascent efforts by small-scale private sector operators are taking advantage of the limited EV subsidy policies introduced in 2022, but these guidelines don’t include electric bikes, which are calculated, alongside non-motorized bikes, to be an integral part of the decarbonization pathway for the land transport sector in concert with the resuscitation of the public transit industry. Cessation of growth in ICE taxis and private vehicles is critical.
Despite the previous government’s vocal rhetoric regarding the impacts of climate change and extensive national planning documentation expressing the need for rapid decarbonization, the business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory of behaviour in Fiji’s land transport sector is trending completely off-target from both its NDC and SDG commitments. The nation has accrued billions of dollars of unnecessary expenditures on fossil fuel imports over the past decade by not instituting the necessary fiscal policies and operational activities required to correct the unsustainable consumption patterns when initially identified in A Green Growth Framework for Fiji (2014), the Greater Suva Transport Strategy 2015-2030, the Fiji Low Emission Development Strategy 2018-2050, and the NDC Implementation Roadmap and NDC Investment Plan (including project pipeline). With a new government at the helm of the nation, it is clear that action is more urgently needed than ever to correct the fundamental incongruity of the rhetoric of the past administration with its detrimental actions. Fiji’s fuel imports represent the single largest debt driver for the nation’s economy, and inspiring individual and collective behavioural change is imperative to turn the nation towards a sustainable future in the coming decade.