Promoting action to build resilient and sustainable island communities

Innovative Island Solutions: From the Poles to the Tropics

Date: 8 December 2015
Location: Maison de la Nouvelle Calédonie
Host: Aruba and Seychelles
Strategic Priority: Building resilient and sustainable island communities through innovative partnerships


 CBC9695Islands are on the frontline of climate change. From the poles to the tropics they are experiencing significant and catastrophic climate impacts. Given their often-small size and limited resources, islands have long been leaders in adaptation and resilience.

On Tuesday December 8, a number of visionary island leaders from tropical Aruba and Seychelles to the Arctic of Greenland came together in Paris to showcase their innovative solutions in tackling climate change and to reinforce the need for greater action on all islands.

“For the last two weeks islands have come together in Paris to raise our voices individually and collectively to indicate our particular vulnerability,” stated H.E. Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba who co-hosted the event with Seychelles’ Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, The Hon. Didier Dogley.

Although islands are the most vulnerable to climate change Minister Dogley highlighted that through continuing to “strengthen our relationship with all islands, from Europe overseas to the islands of the United States and Small Island Developing States; together we are showing the world how to build a resilient and sustainable future.”

The Minister for Overseas France, Mme George Pau-Langevin believes “it is very important to highlight the innovative initiatives to fight climate change in the islands." Held as part of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, France, at the Maison de la Nouvelle Calédonie, and coordinated by the Association of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTA) and Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) with the support of the European Union, this event was an opportunity to celebrate the cultural diversity of the worlds islands while recognizing their connection through one ocean.

The following innovative solutions were showcased through the event:

Aruba, H.E. Michiel Godfried "Mike" Eman, Prime Minister shared Aruba’s 2020 Vision that sets a target for 100% sustainable energy and fuel independence by 2020 announced at the Rio+20 sustainable development conference in 2012.  He indicated that this target merges sustainability with innovation, “during this quest we hope to attract more knowledge and better financing. We can’t do it alone.” A platform to partners to engage in supporting Aruba meet their goals is through the annual Green Aruba 2020 conference which has become a successful platform for sharing information, practical knowledge, and best practices.

Republic of Seychelles, H.E. Didier Dogley, Minister for Environment and Energy announced that Seychelles has concluded a historic USD30million debt restructure to fund their adaptation to climate change with the Paris Club creditors and South Africa. The agreement, reached with the support of The Nature Conservancy and through the platform of GLISPA, forms a key building block to advance a sustainable blue economy in Seychelles including conserving 30% of their Exclusive Economic Zone or about 400 000km2 as protected area with 15% of the EEZ in no take zones.” The Minister further highlighted that island leaders are taking innovations, such as the debt swap, forward to build resilience and invited those who want to support islands to join them through GLISPA and implementation of their 2030 strategy.

British Virgin Islands, The Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier highlighted the urgency for islands to take action to address climate change. He highlighted the Caribbean Challenge Initiative a commitment of nine countries and BVI in the region to effectively conserve and manage at least 20% of their marine and coastal environment by 2020, as well as create a fully functioning sustainable finance mechanisms that will provide long-term and reliable funding for this goal.

Greenland, The Hon. Vittus Qujaukitsoq, Minister for Finance, Mineral Resources and Foreign Affairs represented the cold Arctic and the biggest island in the world. The Minister stressed that “all Islands, from the poles to the tropics, are facing extreme changes but we are small voices individually. We need a strong united voice to give input to the international negotiations." He further highlighted the long-term effort of the Greenlandic government to transition toward sustainable energy through investing 1% of GDP annually in hydropower since 1990. Hydropower supplies energy to more than 70 isolated communities in Greenland.

New Caledonia, M. Philippe Gomès, Member of the French Parliament representing New Caledonia, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, highlighted the cooperation agreement signed with Australia, in March 2010, regarding the sustainable management of the Coral Sea. Covering an area of about 5 million square kilometers, the Coral Sea is a marine area whose waters are under the competence of Australia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands Vanuatu, and with no international waters. Beyond the creation of “a Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve” of more than 1 million square kilometers by Australia in 2012 and of a “Natural Parc of the Coral Sea” of 1.3 million square kilometers by New Caledonia in 2014, there is a strong wish to extend the bilateral initiative to the three other States bordering the Coral Sea in a transnational integrated project.Republic of Palau, Keobel Sakuma, Special Envoy of the President, reflected that ten years ago, his country alongside the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia as well as the territories of Guam and Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands launched a remarkable pledge to effectively conserve 20% of its terrestrial, and 30% of its near-shore resources by 2020 known as the Micronesia Challenge. He indicated how the region has made significant progress to achieve this goal, but more needs to be done. He asked parties to join Palau in an initiative being led through GLISPA, the Island Resilience Initiative, to catalyze large-scale financing into building resilient infrastructure on ten islands to be launched the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, September 2016.

The evening was emceed by Maria Damanaki, the Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy, and former European Union Commissioner, who concluded that while islands are uniquely vulnerable these vulnerabilities also gives rise to innovative thinking, “These are place where resources are limited and the need for sustainability is something that has sat prominently in the psyche of local communities for generations.”

Interviews recorded during Innovative Island Solutions: