UNEP News Center: Today, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the GEO SIDS Outlook, part of its flagship Global Environment Outlook (GEO) series. The report, based on the findings of a broad range of SIDS scientists, experts and policy makers, provides four integrated themes for action to support SIDS become the environmental economies of the future – building a diversified, blue-green economy; technological leapfrogging; giving priority to island culture; and reconnecting with nature.
Speaking at a press conference on the report were H.E. Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati; H.E. Rolph Payet, Minister of Environment and Energy of Seychelles; UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner; and Philip Weech, GEO SIDS Outlook expert and Director of the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission. The event was moderated by UNEP Chief Scientist Jacqueline McGlade.
“Small Island Developing States presently face a number of major challenges and hardships,” said Mr. Steiner. “Many suffer from isolation and high costs associated with long distances from global markets, and lag behind in the adoption of new technologies and innovation. Growing populations concentrated in urban areas are putting stress on island resources and the health effects of unsafe water, poor sanitation and increasingly unhealthy diets. Meanwhile, climate change threatens biodiversity, livelihoods and even the very existence of some island nations.”
“As the world enters the post-2015 era, significant changes both in global policy and on islands themselves were identified by the GEO expert teams from SIDS. Improvements in line with the blue-green economy would include, among other things, economic diversification, economic approaches to improve the management of biodiversity, resource efficiency, and sustainable consumption and production,” he added.
With almost 30 per cent of SIDS populations living in areas less than 5 metres above sea level and the size of storms in some cases exceeding the size of whole islands, estimated losses to SIDS economies could become overwhelming. In the Caribbean, changes in annual hurricane frequency and intensity could result in additional annual losses of 0.5billion USD by 2080 to the tourism sector, meaning that without urgent action, SIDS face a future dominated by loss and damage.
Over the past two decades, there have been significant changes in SIDS economies and populations. SIDS are often highly dependent on a limited number of sectors including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and tourism. Isolation and distance from markets, coupled with a heavy dependence on air transport and shipping, has resulted in fuel prices representing up to 70 per cent of GDP in some SIDS. The ageing local infrastructure, the phasing out of preferential export regimes and small domestic markets, mean that many SIDS lack economies of scale to face competition head-on.
Human well-being has potentially decreased – the result of a demographic imbalance caused by out-migration to urban centres – eroding traditional concepts of social acceptance and the spread of non-communicable disease such as diabetes. Fragmentation is also hindering communications, community building, participatory engagement in development and delivery of island services.
Many SIDS are already taking significant action: 38 countries have ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and there are many regional activities providing SIDS with early warning systems and climate adaptation plans. In the energy sector, whilst fossil fuels remain at the core for power generation, agriculture and transport, many SIDS are now pursuing domestic renewable energy sources through initiatives such as SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy For All), and SIDS DOCK- (sustainable energy initiative for geothermal energy) and improvements in energy efficiency. But SIDS still face difficulties in the adoption of new technologies and innovation and the capacity to sustain them in an island setting.
The GEO SIDS Outlook report provides an integrated narrative for the future of SIDS based on an analysis of realizable opportunities, case studies and policy actions. It connects the need for improved basis services such as waste management, affordable energy and food security, to the sustainable management of natural resources, the development of a diversity of small to medium enterprises to support the blue-green economy and key sectors such as tourism, and access to technology and financing.
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