Every year, on June 5th, millions of people across the planet celebrate World Environment Day—coming together at community, national and regional level to promote positive action on the most-pressing environmental challenges of our day. This year’s global host for World Environment Day is Barbados, one of many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) facing multi-dimensional issues that require integrated global action.
SIDS contribute little to the problem of climate change—the combined annual carbon dioxide output of these nations accounts for less than one per cent of global emissions. Yet they are especially vulnerable to the changing climate due to their small size, narrow resource base, susceptibility to natural hazards, low economic resilience, and limited for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. The very existence of low-lying nations, such as Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu is threatened by climate change-induced sea level rise.
As one of the smallest independent states in the world, with a total land area of just 431 km2, Barbados faces many of the challenges outlined above, but it is not passively accepting its fate. Barbados has long been a leader in the Caribbean region in the Green Economy approach. Its current National Strategic Plan (2006-2025) clearly identifies “Building a Green Economy: Strengthening the Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment” as one its key aims.
Barbados’s transition to a green economy offers opportunities for managing natural capital, further diversifying the economy, increasing resource efficiency and supporting the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Tremendous potential exists for greening the agriculture, fisheries, building, transportation and tourism sectors, and Barbados is demonstrating the political will to move to a Green Economy both through its policies and engagement with the United Nations Environment Programme by hosting World Environment Day.
Overall, climate change adaptation is a top priority in SIDS, but lack of financial resources is an obstacle. However, considering that the capital cost of sea-level rise in the Caribbean Community Countries alone is estimated to reach US$187 billion by 2080 under current practices, investing now to head off such a massive economic impact makes sound business sense.
The right enabling conditions are vital to generate and stimulate both public and private sector investments that incorporate broader environmental and social criteria, and thus address this growing challenge. You can contribute to this movement by joining us, in Barbados or wherever you are in the world, in celebrating World Environment Day and raising your voice to encourage action.