Greening the Islands Foundation

Taking Stock of SIDS4: GTI is glad that the new plan includes some of its recommendations, starting from phasing out fossil fuels subsidies, but support and cooperation remain crucial

The 4th UN International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) took place at the end of May in Antigua and Barbuda. This represented a crucial milestone for all small islands worldwide, as it aimed at laying their course of action for the next decade on a path to resilient prosperity amidst manifold perils.


For the GTI Observatory, it was a key moment to present the first developed roadmaps within the 100% RES Islands Initiative during a high-level side event co-organised with UN DESA and the Government of Tonga titled “Small Island Leading the Energy Transition: Roadmaps to 100% Renewables”.


As remarked by Li Junhua, Under-Secretary-General DESA & Secretary-General SIDS4 Conference in his opening remarks at the event, “Our ongoing collaborative efforts have led to the formulation of best practices and regulatory recommendations that seek to foster investments and support energy transitions in SIDS. And our efforts put SIDS at the forefront of the global movement towards a sustainable future.”


Mr. Li Junhua also recalled that “energy costs are one of central challenges for SIDS”, and that “significant funding gaps persist” that need to be bridged to turn clean energy transition plans into investable opportunities. This is one of the key objectives of the 100% RES Islands initiative and the second session of the side event tackled the financing issue in depth.

As highlighted by Gianni Chianetta, Chair of GTI Foundation, speaking to Reuters during SIDS4: “the world has much to learn from SIDS as they navigate the energy transition. Indeed, as they seek to reduce their dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels, Chianetta said, “islands can lead the way.”


Among several activation moments, Greening the Islands (GTI) Foundation also provided input for the conference’s final document, recommending to explicitly include the transition to fully renewable energy systems as a key priority for small islands over the next decisive decade.


According to GTI’s analysis on the islands of Curacao and Rodrigues (Mauritius), up to 80% of renewable electricity penetration can be achieved by 2030 with solar PV and wind mainly. The 100% can be obtained by 2035 adding off-shore wind and ocean energy technologies, with energy storage critical to shut down diesel generators completely.


On these two islands, transitioning to fully renewable power systems would unlock investment potential of up to a billion euros. The resulting power generation cost is estimated to be sensibly lower than current levels, benefiting local populations and providing fast investment breakeven due to the high cost of fossil fuels.


The key outcome document of SIDS4, the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS), adopted with unanimous support, outlines a new 10-year plan of action (2024-2034). Its core goals include building resilient economies; fostering safe, healthy and prosperous societies; achieving a secure future; environmental protection and planetary sustainability.


In order to achieve such goals, SIDS have identified specific priority areas for action, including building economic resilience; scaling up climate and biodiversity action and support; conserving and sustainably using the ocean and its resources; mainstreaming disaster risk reduction; improving data collection, analysis, and use; promoting science, technology, innovation, and digitalization; and enhancing partnerships.


ABAS builds on and follows up the previous plan: the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway (SAMOA Pathway, 2014-2024). Compared with this, the new plan appears more decisive across key topics. On climate change, the urgency of climate action is more prominent, reflecting the increasing severity of climate threats faced by SIDS and the need for a more accelerated response.


On technology, greater emphasis is placed on technological advancements and innovative solutions to support SIDS’ development, including for renewable energy integration, ocean energy technologies, and grid modernization.


On finance, stronger language emphasises the urgency of increased support for SIDS, focusing on securing climate finance, particularly for mitigation and adaptation efforts, and de-risking mechanisms for renewable energy projects including government guarantees and insurance schemes.


Among the new financial aids launched at SIDS4, the United States announced its commitment to scale-up international public climate finance to over USD 11 billion annually by 2024, quadrupling the previous level. The EU pledged to mobilize EUR 300 billion in public and private investments by 2027 to involve the private sector in sustainable development through its Global Gateway investment strategy, with several initiatives underway in SIDS. UNDP announced a new $135 million Blue and Green Islands Integrated Program, launched jointly with UNEP. The Green Climate Fund presented its “50by30” vision to manage USD 50 billion by 2030 and the Fund’s efforts to strengthen the network of entities it collaborates with to better enable countries to put forward ambitious programs.


On data, science, and capacity building, ABAS reiterates the importance of data collection, scientific knowledge sharing but places greater focus on capacity building for renewable energy and climate resilience tailored to SIDS’ needs, and specifically calls for dedicated monitoring mechanisms.


On partnerships and collaboration, renewed emphasis on collaborative efforts is underpinned by greater focus on public-private partnerships and involvement of the local and international private sector in the energy transition.


Notably, the document stresses small islands’ need for renewable energy, including ocean-based, and underlines the relevance of the water-food-energy nexus and innovative solutions. It mentions an energy efficient transport sector and calls for a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies. Most importantly, it recognises the role of the private sector in speeding up small islands’ transition. For these developments, GTI Foundation is glad and takes pride in having advocated as such during the conference.


The document also stresses the importance of monitoring ABAS’ progress with a tailored methodology that reflects SIDS’ unique context and needs. This is also a topic GTI is focused on, with experience in improving the monitoring abilities of small islands, and it remarks on its importance. 


However, the final text makes no mention of 100% renewable energy systems and, even if fully implemented, ABAS may not be enough to ensure SIDS’ resilient prosperity. Therefore, advocacy and cooperation efforts are still needed to support small islands to transition to fully renewables worldwide, and this will remain one of GTI Foundation’s priorities looking forward, in particular at New York Climate Week 2024 and COP29.

GTI Foundation

GTI Foundation

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