World Environment Day - Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level

Small and Vulnerable but NOT Weak

Blog by Angelique Pouponneau

Angelique Pouponneau (24) is a young lawyer who is committed to youth empowerment and development. She is currently the Speaker of the Seychelles National Youth Assembly and sits on the Board of the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub, a youth-led NGO that promotes sustainable development in SIDS of the AIMS Region

Small Island Developing States (SIDS), known for their natural beauty, beautiful blue seas, soft white sand, lush green vegetation and warm temperatures, are vulnerable in this global village. SIDS, like other countries, are assessed by their gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and because of its small population it often has a high GDP per capita similar to those of Finland.

Seychelles, for example, has entered into the middle income bracket countries. This is however deceiving because it does not encompass the reality of the situation. If it was decided that there would be an extension of the port, the cost per head would be greater than a country with a bigger population, so although it may seem like a rich country by the GDP measurement, development is more onerous on the population.

Furthermore, GDP does not show the vulnerabilities specific to SIDS. The most obvious one is climate change. SIDS are most affected by climate change as sea level rise threaten the existence of low-lying coastlines. The injustice of the situation is further revealed as only 1% of the carbon dioxide emissions are given off by small island nations. This has brought about a debate as to whether SIDS should engage in prevention or adaptation.

Many small island nations have already engaged in reducing their carbon footprint by investing in renewable energy, creating awareness campaigns and engaging in eco-tourism however the true culprits continue to produce carbon emissions. The greater carbon dioxide emitters have suggested that SIDS adapt. This require expensive measures which would cost small island nations a lot of money to implement such as building houses on higher land or on stilts if by the coast and creating new modes of sea transportation.

Mitigation of the current and future effects is also contemplated. This has been achieved by not building on mangrove areas and through tree planting campaigns. However all this comes at an expense and one which the citizens of SIDS have to bear.  This is why SIDS want an index that can show its vulnerabilities and the reality of the situation which is hidden by the GDP measurement.

The Kyoto Protocol seems to have failed to achieve the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Do we need more effective agreements? I will make a few suggestions and many may think them irrational. First, I would suggest hefty fines on large companies or shutting down operations if they breach their carbon dioxide emissions quota. Second, banks should give favourable interest rates if a business is environmentally friendly and if it is detrimental to the environment then very high interest rates should be imposed.

There must be a way of having companies who are so enthralled with making a profit to believe in the sustainability of the Earth.