Global warming is a major challenge for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), it is causing ocean levels to rise. Due to their small size and isolation, SIDS are more vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters, climate change and sea-level rise. However, these islands have also been successful in overcoming their environmental problems. From Palau to Puerto Rico, the stories of resilience and innovation abound.
From Trinidad & Tobago to Tonga, Samoa to Suriname, the problems that these small islands face – climate change and extreme natural disasters, waste management, unsustainable consumption, degradation of natural resources, in the midst of overpopulation and continuing industrialization – are the problems that challenge us all.
World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. In fact environment activities take place all year round and climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere. The observance of World Environment Day began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations encourages positive action for the environment.
Through WED, UNEP enables everyone to realize not only the responsibility to care for the Earth, but also reminds one and all of their individual power to become agents of change. Every action counts, and when multiplied by a global chorus, becomes exponential in its impact.
WED is a big celebration, engaging millions across the globe through events on the ground in over 100 countries. Every year, participants, young and old, organize clean up campaigns, art exhibitions, tree planting drives, concerts, dance recitals, recycling drives, social media campaigns and different contests themed around caring for the planet.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrates the World Environment Day 2014 at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change by Barbados, a Caribbean island. This island is the host for this year's WED celebrations.
The focus for this year's celebrations is Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with the slogan 'Raise Your Voice: No Sea Level'. Barbados, a 430-square kilometer nation with a population of 270,000, is considered to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change - from agricultural impacts to the destruction of its coastal ecosystems.
However, this small nation has taken big steps to reduce its climate impact and to provide clean, renewable energy - as well as opportunities for green economic growth - to its people. Among other things, Barbados has pledged to increase the share of renewable energy across the island to 29 percent of all electricity consumption by 2029. This would cut total electricity costs by an estimated USD 283.5 million and reduce CO2 emissions by 4.5 million tonnes, according to the government. It is estimated that Barbados' tourism sector, which contributes about 15 per cent of the island's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and its sugar industry, which contributes about 2 per cent, could both be severely affected by changing weather patterns. In response to such threats, Barbados has made "Building a Green Economy: Strengthening the Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment" one of six concrete goals built into its National Strategic Plan (2006-2025).
"Small Island Developing States the world over are facing a host of risks related to climate change, from temperature increases that negatively affect agriculture to sea level rise that threatens the very existence of some nations," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
"Barbados has put conservation and the transition to an inclusive green economy at the heart of its national strategy. Through this framework, it has enacted a number of proactive, concrete measures to combat climate change, including incentives that support one of the island's fastest growing sectors - solar power.
"As the host of WED, Barbados will have the opportunity to showcase these initiatives and to act as an example for countless Small Island Developing States facing similar challenges. The country has shown tremendous leadership and political will, proving that the transition to a green economy is possible - even in countries facing the greatest threats - when robust environmental policy is translated into action on the ground," he added.
Solar water heaters are now a widely used renewable energy technology in Barbados, with installations in nearly half of the island's dwelling units. In 2002 alone, Barbados saved 15,000 metric tons of carbon emission and over USD 100 million in energy savings from the 35,000 solar hot water systems that had been installed at the time. The solar water heater use is one of the highest in the world.
More recently, the Barbadian government has implemented several plans to further stimulate the use of solar electric systems. For example, from the US$5,000 allotted per year under the 2008 modified Income Tax Allowance for Home Improvement, up to US$ 1,000 can be used for energy audits.
The import duties on renewable energy electricity systems and VAT have been reduced to zero and companies involved in the development, installation or manufacturing are eligible for a 10-year tax free holiday.
Financial incentives for manufacturers, such as the provision of low-interest loans, may further serve to assist the diversification and growth of the solar water heater industry.
In 2012, Barbados and UNEP launched the Green Economy Scoping Study - Barbados Synthesis Report, which was designed to identify challenges and opportunities in the island's transition to a Green Economy, and to accelerate that transition.
Projects and events in Barbados to celebrate WED will take place over five days. They will focus on climate adaptation technologies, business, sustainable resource management, protected areas, schools and Barbadian local culture, as well as spotlighting challenges and opportunities facing Small Island Developing States around the globe.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the occasion of world environment day 2014 said, “ Small island nations share a common understanding that we need to set our planet on a sustainable path. This demands the engagement of all sectors of society in all countries. On World Environment Day, millions of individuals, community groups and businesses from around the world take part in local projects –from clean up campaigns to art exhibits to tree-planting drives. This year, I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future. Raise your voice, not the sea level. Planet Earth is our shared island. Let us join forces to protect it”.
The writer, Deputy Managing Director of Modhumoti Bank Limited, is an Associate Member of Institute of Cost & Management Accountants of Bangladesh and Certified Sustainability Reporting Specialist