Climate change is accelerating, with 2022
marking record emissions and 2023 on track to be the hottest year ever. The
window is narrowing down for the world to align with a 1.5°C pathway.
Regrettably, island nations have been neglected for too long and still require
special attention in the context of climate change. In particular, it has
become increasingly urgent to scale up renewable energy sources to ensure the
security of their economies and environments, as well as a sustainable future
for their communities.
COP28 will be a critical event this year as
it marks the first Global Stocktake, a comprehensive assessment of the progress
made in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the gaps to be filled.
Furthermore, the loss & damage fund agreed upon at COP27 needs to be
detailed, structured, and implemented. The GTI Observatory has already issued a
recommendation for such an instrument to be dedicated with priority to SIDS and
islands in general.
Islands, especially small,
non-interconnected ones, are subject to structural vulnerabilities that are now
being dramatically compounded by the accelerating impacts of climate change.
Despite contributing negligibly to global warming, in fact, islands are
disproportionally affected by the worst effects of climate change such as sea
level rise, extreme weather events, droughts, and ocean acidification, which
already caused many of them to suffer extensive loss and damage.
However, islands are not only the front
line of the climate crisis, but they also offer unique opportunities to develop
and test innovative solutions for mitigation and adaptation, originating
sustainable models replicable on other islands and even on the mainland.
In this editorial, I wish to emphasize the
importance of making sure that island nations are well represented in COP28 as
laboratories for climate change solutions.
The unique characteristics of islands make
them suitable as laboratories for climate change solutions. Island nations can
be utilized in innovative ways to test new approaches and solutions to address
the impacts of climate change. Small island nations are also more agile and
possess a unique perspective and understanding of their environment, making
them important in the development of climate change strategies. Their concerns
and problems are unique and represent a different set of challenges compared to
landlocked countries, hence they require special attention and consideration.
Island nations have already taken steps
towards reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. They are focusing on renewable
energy, energy efficiency and conservation, sustainable transportation, and
reducing waste. I truly believe islands
can become models to other nations.
With our 100% RES Islands Initiative, we
want to bring them forward as proving grounds for fully renewable energy
systems, starting from the power sector and gradually extending to other key
sectors such as water, agriculture, transportation, and waste. We aim to
originate scientific basis and cooperation among main island stakeholders and
international clean technologies and renewable energy industry players, for
islands to showcase the technical and economic feasibility of transitioning
towards fully decarbonized energy systems.
A diversified mix of renewables and storage
solutions, in a decentralized and smart grid approach, can represent an
effective means for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, while
also creating more resilient and less costly power systems as well as
socio-economic development opportunities for local communities.
However, surpassing high levels of
renewable electricity penetration in islands’ power mixes to reach 100%, is
particularly challenging and requires adequate power grids and storage systems
to ensure flexibility and stability, as well as proper legislative and
regulatory frameworks. Through building concrete case studies and project
teasers on islands, we can generate best practices and replicable models for
other islands worldwide.
While lacking significant scale, islands
can offer significant opportunities to innovative solution providers that, with
relatively lower investments, can develop “first-of-kind” projects and prompt
quick uptake and scale-up on larger markets.
We believe islands can become 100% powered
by renewable energy and we are bringing first results at COP28 for the first
island case, Mauritius. We also found
that other islands, particularly Rodrigues, can be fully powered by renewables
as early as 2030.
The involvement of island nations in COP28
as laboratories for climate change solutions is crucial. Their contribution
would help to shape the global conversation on climate change in an innovative
and productive way.
Islands need to make their voices heard and
use their unique position to bring attention to the issues that plague their
environment, and it is essential that they participate in COP28 as laboratories
for climate change solutions. Remaining involved in such global initiatives
will allow these countries to maintain their position on the global stage and
ensure they receive appropriate assistance when needed, as well as to
contribute in shaping global climate policies. Other countries’ support on this
is crucial as it will send an important message of solidarity and cooperation
in the face of this global challenge. This is the spirit that drives Greening
the Islands’ mission and engagements at COP28.
Islands must also showcase their innovative
solutions and successful projects that have already been implemented, and that
can serve as the basis for more broad-based policies for all nations. Such
initiatives can form the cornerstone of a more sustainable future, and this can
only be realized with the full participation and collaboration of all
countries, big and small.
Let us hope that COP28 can build on the successes of the previous conferences and develop policies that will lead the way towards a climate-resilient future.