Greening the Islands Foundation

COP28: Why Islands are Bigger Than We Think

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.

Reyad Fezzani

Reyad Fezzani

On Key

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