Greening the Islands Foundation

  Highlights

Leaders in Glasgow finally acknowledge islands are uniquely threatened by climate change, but measures do not match urgency

At COP26 GTI strengthens international partnerships with key stakeholders

The Glasgow climate summit has been seen by many as a faint step in the right direction, closing with some positive pledges and bilateral deals, and reaffirming the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The importance of keeping global warming below 1.5C is now made clear but still, what was put on the table is hardly enough to achieve the goal. Surely, COP26 left overarching concerns and a feeling of disappointment on the side of islands and remote coastal communities, which are at the forefront of climate change and are already paying for it. Small islands are especially vulnerable to rapidly rising sea levels and to increasingly frequent and intense hurricanes, heat waves and floods.

Among the highlights of the Glasgow Package, the final document calls for continuous development of renewable sources and energy efficiency, as well as accelerated efforts to reduce the unabated use of coal and subsidies to fossil fuels. A goal of “phasing down” coal-fired power generation substituted “phasing out” at the last moment but since the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997, no COP decision has ever made a direct reference to abandoning fossil fuels. The final document also recognizes the need to cut climate-altering emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010, as well as that of achieving climate neutrality within about mid-century. A pledge was signed by 103 nations to cut methane emissions by 30% with respect to 2020 levels by 2030; and one was signed by about 40 countries and institutions to end domestic and international investments in unabated fossil fuels power generation.

Islands made the headlines of international media several times throughout the two weeks summit and though greater attention was finally raised, many SIDS leaders were expecting more. Here is a summary of the main outcomes for islands from COP26:

  • Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS): UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a joint initiative with the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The new IRIS fund will support small island states to develop resilient, sustainable infrastructure that can withstand climate shocks, protecting lives and livelihoods. The UK will contribute an initial £10 million to the fund, which will provide targeted technical assistance.

 

  • The Blue Green Alliance. Pacific and European Union negotiators have launched the Blue Green Alliance, a package of available financing of € 197 million for the period 2021-2027. This will be implemented in the countries of the Pacific with a strong focus on climate change. Alliance partner members have already established relationships in several countries, to work with governments and enhance their domestic policy, planning, and regulatory frameworks, as well as create more favourable investment environments.

 

  • New resources for the Adaptation Fund. A new €100 million contribution from the EU budget will flow into the Adaptation Fund to benefit the most vulnerable populations in the Small Island Developing States. Moreover, the new rules for carbon markets updated at COP26 in Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement, will require project developers to deposit 5% of the carbon credits generated within the international emissions trading scheme into the Adaptation Fund to finance climate change adaptation programmes in developing countries.

 

  • SIDS Clean Energy Toolkit. The Toolkit, developed under a joint project by the Commonwealth Secretariat and Sustainable Energy For All (SEforAll), aims to help countries translate clean energy transition plans into investable business opportunities. To test the Toolkit, a country business case has been developed for Seychelles identifying the scale of investment required to transition to clean energy and providing objective basis for credible strategies to attract and maximise the investment required to achieve its clean energy goals.

 

  • Africa and Small Island Developing State launched a coalition to attract funding. Africa and SIDS have launched a coalition to attract funding to help half a billion farmers to implement regenerative agricultural practices in the next 10 years. The coalition is a public-private partnership consisting of businesses, investors and cities to address climate vulnerabilities while accelerating decarbonisation rates and building resilience. The partnership will include a new renewable infrastructure finance facility by Bank of America (BoA)  for SIDS in the Caribbean. The facility aims to invest about 800MW of new wind, solar and electric vehicle charging infrastructure projects in the Caribbean, with the aim of accelerating clean energy transition in the region. In addition, the Climate Finance Network is launching in eight Pacific Islands: Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They will be the first to receive climate finance advisers to assist with building financial capacity.

 

COP26 was particularly important due to the deadline for updating the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), set every 5 years since the Paris Agreement. However, current national plans on cutting emissions by 2030 are inadequate to limit temperature rises to 1.5C according to various analysis. One of the crucial aims for the UK Presidency was to draw up a roadmap for more frequent updates, and that was achieved: the revision of NDCs will be on the agenda for next year’s COP, to be held in Egypt, and for the one following in 2023, providing an important lever to ensure higher ambition on emissions cuts. This could allow a broader margin for island nations to “check on” heavy polluters and rich countries and push them to do more.

It has to be recognized that, in the energy transition and in the phase-out of fossil fuels subsidies, countries start from very different situations and development levels, and that the objective of $100 billion a year to finance the transition in developing countries was set for 2020 and missed. Climate finance remains crucial for developing countries to really transition away from fossil fuels and put in place adaptation and mitigation measures.

As remarked by Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, during her powerful speech at the Opening of the COP26’s World Leaders Summit: “failure to provide critical finance” to vulnerable countries “is measured in lives and livelihoods in our communities. This is immoral, and it is unjust”.

 

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As a matter of fact, we are dangerously close to exceeding 1.5°C global warming by 2050, with devastating consequences on civilization around the world. As reported by IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year, some tragic effects of climate change are unavoidable at this point, like sea-level rise and more extreme weather events. Many islands and coastal areas risk extinction, as recalled at COP26 by former US President Barack Obama.

Developing countries are spending large sums from their already stretched budgets to repair the damage caused by the climate crisis. As most of the climate finance currently available goes to funding emissions-cutting projects, the poorest countries demanded that higher stakes be directed at adaptation measures.

At COP26, they have been promised that increases will bring the finance for the next five years to $500bn and that the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation will be doubled; a database and communications and reporting system, called the Santiago Network has been set up. Yet the issue of creating a funding mechanism for loss and damage has not been resolved and will return to the talks next year.

Decisions made at COP26 have created momentum but world leaders need to deliver on their pledges and put forth more ambitious targets. GTI was at COP26 in Glasgow to contribute in raising awareness about islands’ condition and meet several important stakeholders. Among the others, GTI Director Gianni Chianetta met Amjad Abdulla, Head of Partnership at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and member of the GTI Awards Jury; Colin Young, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); and representatives from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). AOSIS represents the interests of the 39 small island and low-lying coastal developing states in international climate change, sustainable development negotiations and processes.

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The CCCCC is an inter-governmental organization grouping twenty countries that was established by CARICOM Heads of Government to lead and coordinate the Caribbean’s response to climate change.

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During the bilateral talks, GTI stressed how islands need to be recognized a special status to reflect their particular vulnerabilities, but also how they can be turned into laboratories for innovation, testbeds for solutions to be replicated on the mainland. GTI will seek to create new partnerships with these actors and others as cooperation is key for achieving the global climate targets, and strengthen the international relations with its strategic partners to facilitate faster deployment of innovative and replicable solutions on the islands of the world. In fact, as stressed by Sainivalati S. Navoti, Chief of SIDS Unit, Division for Sustainable Development Goals, UNDESA and member of the GTI Awards Jury, international cooperation and partnerships across a variety of actors are critical for the sustainable development of islands, and have to be based on national ownership, transparency, accountability.

Over 2022 and beyond, GTI will continue to give voice to the islands and work towards promoting their sustainable transition for a greater self-sufficiency, offering even more services and engaging key decision-makers to favour enabling regulatory and financing frameworks. Among the critical themes, the GTI Observatory will focus on renewables, energy communities, water, climate-smart agriculture, sustainable tourism, electric mobility, ports electrification, green hydrogen and more. Stay tuned for another year of island action!

 

Note for the editors

Greening the Islands (GTI) is an innovative organization that supports self-sufficiency and sustainability of islands worldwide. GTI launched the GTI Observatory, a global initiative that aggregates key stakeholders to match island needs and innovative solutions in energy, water, mobility and environmental sectors. The GTI Observatory facilitates the development of shared strategies between governments and corporates.

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