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World Environment Day should help save ‘drowning’ small islands



Policymakers and charities have called on governments around the world to consider the damaging effects that climate change has on small islands, as part of World Environment Day on Thursday.

This year’s event is hosted by Barbados, a small island developing state (SIDS) in the Caribbean that is being heavily affected by climate change, especially rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Despite being least responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions, many island states including Barbados, Kiribati, Maldives and Marshall Islands have increased efforts to reduce their footprint, for instance by focusing on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said, “Barbados’s transition to a green economy offers opportunities for managing natural capital, further diversifying the economy, increasing resource efficiency and supporting the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

“Overall, climate change adaptation is a top priority in SIDS, but lack of financial resources is an obstacle.

“The right enabling conditions are vital to generate and stimulate both public and private sector investments that incorporate broader environmental and social criteria, and thus address this growing challenge.”

Meanwhile Kit Vaughan, director of CARE International’s poverty, environment and climate change network, commented, “With current, insufficiently ambitious commitments from powerful nations to take action to reduce their emissions, sea-level rise could reach one metre or more in the coming years, drowning many small islands and leading to a loss of territory.

“In the face of an uncertain future, today’s World Environment Day is an opportunity for hundreds of communities around the world to share their knowledge and experience of tackling a changing climate. At the same time, governments need to step up and commit to ambitious emissions cuts and new resources to support massively scaled-up climate change adaptation measures.”

Photo: James Willamor via flickr

Further reading:

Juggling sustainability and mining: is Mongolia a suitable host for World Environment Day?

Conference calls for sustainable tourism as key factor for island development

‘Climate change has already arrived’, president of the Marshall Islands warns

Rising sea levels force Pacific Islanders to relocate

World Environment Day to ‘raise a call for solidarity’ among island nations