A brief on lessons from the history of global sustainable development policy looks at the role of small island developing States in advancing climate action and ways to ensure SIDS survive climate change and COVID-19.
The brief titled, ‘Small Islands, Large Oceans: Voices on the Frontlines of Climate Change,’ is authored by Leila Mead and published as part of IISD’s ‘Still Only One Earth’ series. Mead explains that SIDS are particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters, and external economic shocks. She calls for an approach that draws on economic diversification, energy independence and increased use of renewables, a sustainable tourism industry, and a blue economy.
According to Mead, the concept of “blue economy” refers to protecting ocean resources by linking their sustainable use with economic growth, such as through aquaculture, fisheries, coastal tourism, offshore wind energy and ocean energy, and desalination. Each dollar invested in the sustainable ocean economy is estimated to yield, on average, five dollars in return, Mead reports.
The policy brief provides examples of SIDS’ innovations to support a blue economy, including:
- In Saint Lucia, building a Blue Recovery Hub with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum to share lessons with other SIDS on leveraging innovative finance to support their blue economy transitions;
- In Mauritius, launching a roadmap to consolidate the tourism, seaports, and fishing sectors while building up aquaculture, marine biotechnology, and renewable energy; and
- In the Seychelles, implementing a marine spatial planning initiative, launching the world’s first sovereign blue bond in 2018, and securing the first-ever climate adaptation debt restructuring.
Mead also highlights the efforts of several SIDS to reduce their dependence on energy imports, develop renewable energy markets, and increase energy efficiency. This approach combats climate change while lessening the countries’ vulnerability to external shocks.
Looking ahead, the brief stresses the importance of international cooperation and innovative financing approaches to ensure SIDS’ survival. Such tools include blue and green bonds, and debt swaps or debt restructuring such as the Caribbean’s Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap initiative. Continuing to develop SIDS’ renewable energy potential is also of prime importance for their sustainable development and climate resilience.