Leaders sign historic sustainable energy & climate resilient treaty

September 2: Over 150 delegates and members of the international development community from more than 45 countries were stunned to see leader after leader approach the podium to sign a historic sustainable energy and climate resilient treaty that will significantly change the lives and destiny of over 20 million small islanders, for the better.

Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, multiple leaders from the Pacific, Caribbean and African, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea (AIMS) regions, forcefully raised their voices in unison and accepted responsibility for fulfilling the commitment to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy mechanism – SIDS DOCK. The opening for signature of this historic SIDS DOCK Treaty – a SIDS-SIDS Initiative – was a major highlight of the first day of the United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on SIDS, taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September.

The unprecedented and unexpected number of Heads of State and Government present, sent a strong signal to the standing room only audience, the SIDS population and the international community, demonstrating how deeply committed SIDS leaders are and that they all firmly believe that SIDS must, have and will take responsibility for charting the future of their countries towards a path that would see a total transformation of the SIDS economy away from fossil fuels, to that of one driven by low carbon technologies. The event was considered so important to the Republic of Cabo Verde, that the Prime Minister, Hon. José Maria Neves, excused himself and his entire delegation from the Plenary Hall, to ensure that Cabo Verde, a SIDS DOCK Founding Member was well-represented at the signing – the Cabo Verde Government has one of the most ambitious plans in SIDS, that aims to achieve 100 penetration of renewable energies in Cabo Verde, by 2020.

More than half the members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) were present for the signing of the historic treaty, witnessed by the SIDS DOCK partners Denmark, Japan and Austria, whose kind and generous support facilitated SIDS DOCK start -up activities; also present were SIDS DOCK partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Clinton

Foundation. The treaty was signed by the governments of Barbados, Belize, Bahamas (Commonwealth of the), Dominica (Commonwealth of), Cabo Verde (Republic of), Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Fiji (Republic of), Grenada, Guinea Bissau, Kiribati (Republic of), Niue, Palau (Republic of), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa (Independent State of), Seychelles (Republic of), and Tuvalu.

The Statute will remain open for signature in Apia, Samoa until September 5, and will reopen for signature in Belmopan, Belize, from September 6, 2014 until it enters into force. Belize is the host country for SIDS DOCK, with Samoa designated as the location for the Pacific regional office. More

 

 

 

Why Island Wisdom Is Crucial to Help the World Adapt and Prepare for the Im

For decades, small island countries have been warning the world about the consequences of climate change. While many countries have been debating whether climate change is even happening or who is to blame, small islands have just had to deal with its impact, from extreme weather to rising sea levels and increasing environmental vulnerability.

Major storms have always been a fact of life for small islands. But in recent years they have intensified in their destructive capabilities. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan struck the Caribbean island of Grenada, causing widespread destruction. The financial cost of the disaster was estimated at more than $900 million – more than twice the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Only 10 months later, the country was hit again, this time by Hurricane Emily, which caused another $50 million in damage.

In the Caribbean, changes in hurricane intensity and frequency could eventually result in additional annual losses of $450 million, largely due to disruption of a key source of revenue and jobs: tourism. Limited diversification and small market size means that small island economies are not resilient to disaster loss. This is true not just in the Caribbean, but the world over.

According to global risk models developed by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), six of the top 10 countries with the greatest proportion of resources at risk during hurricanes or cyclones are small islands. These losses will only increase due to sea-level rise, water scarcity, drought, and other factors.

The 38 small island developing states, which spread across the Caribbean, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are not sitting and waiting for the next storm to hit. They have been taking measures to adapt to and manage the risks posed by climate change.

Several Caribbean islands came together seven years ago to create an insurance pool of easy-to-access disaster funding. Spreading the risk across countries reduces premiums and provides contributors with a safety net which can fund vital services when disaster strikes. Since 2007, more than $30 million has been paid out by the 16 participating countries. A similar initiative is under way in the Pacific region where the memories of the massive human toll and devastation due to Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines last November are still all too vivid.

Ideas and actions for reducing the risk from disasters will be at the forefront of the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Samoa from 1-4 September. The Conference will be a showcase for those living on the frontlines of climate change and could have a lasting and positive influence on the post-2015 development agenda.

The Conference is an acknowledgement by all the countries of the world of the unique circumstances that small island developing countries face. Their size, combined with their remoteness, and economies of scale, have made it that much more difficult for small islands to implement measures to become resilient. This is compounded by the impacts of climate change, a problem that is hardly of their own making as they collectively contribute less than 1 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, many are striving to become carbon neutral by using renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Next week’s conference in Samoa is the first of two critical global gatherings. Just a few weeks later, on 23 September in New York, UN Secretary-General will host heads of State, CEOs and civil society leaders at the Climate Summit. The Summit aims to spur accelerated and ambitious actions to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change worldwide, from the largest countries to the smallest island States. It’s about turning promises into performance.

With international attention on small islands, climate change and the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, there has never been a better chance to turn the tide. Now is the time to listen, support and partner with those who have seen first-hand what climate change can do to your economy and your community. It would be one of the greatest tragedies of our time to continue to ignore the warnings from small islands; their issues will soon become our own. More

_________________

Han Seung-soo is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea