Small islands’ huge move toward renewable energy, global carbon market pioneering model for world

A historic agreement will help small island states in the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Island regions, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, make a giant leap in clean energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and begin work on adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank and Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada sign the SIDS DOCK agreement, which will increase small island nations’ access to the financing, technology, technical assistance and participation in the global carbon market they need to transition to a low-carbon economy. (Photo: Michael Bascombe)

These small island developing states (SIDS) are extremely dependent on fossil fuels: the majority of the countries spend more than 30 percent of their foreign exchange earnings on fossil fuels.  But they’re also expected to suffer disproportionately from impacts of global warming, including:

  • rising sea levels
  • increase in weather-related disasters
  • shrinking supply of freshwater

Given this situation, Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director for EDF’s international climate policy and negotiations said small islands suffer a “double blow” of being simultaneously affected by climate change and “hamstrung by costly, inefficient sources of energy”.  This agreement, she said, thus:

has tremendous significance for these islands’ very survival, as it will help them with adapting to the effects of climate change, while also transitioning to a low-carbon economy.  And by themselves reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, they will set a powerful example for the rest of the world.

The agreement was signed on Dec. 8 by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the government of Denmark, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program during the U.N. climate negotiations in Cancún.

Known as “SIDS DOCK”, the agreement will help these small island developing nations:

  1. Access technology by assisting SIDS with developing a sustainable energy sector, increasing energy efficiency and developing renewable energy resources
  2. Receive technical assistance by providing a vehicle for mobilizing financial and technical resources to catalyze clean economic growth
  3. Participate in global carbon market by providing SIDS with a mechanism for connecting with the global carbon market and taking advantage of the resource transfer possibilities that will be afforded
  4. Access financing by serving as a mechanism to help SIDS generate the financial resources to invest in climate change adaptation

Small island nations like the Maldives (above) risk suffering disproportionately from the impacts of climate change, like sea-level rise. (Photo: Badruddeen/Flickr)

Grenada’s Prime Minister and current AOSIS Chair Tillman Thomas, noting the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, said these countries had been “warning the global community of the threat of climate change” for 20 years.  “Time is now running out” for the SIDS countries, Thomas said at the SIDS DOCK signing ceremony, and:

Global deployment of low carbon and carbon neutral technologies will be critical to the survival of SIDS and many other vulnerable countries.  SIDS therefore have no option but to once again take the lead in this critical aspect of climate change because our survival depends on it.

The agreement is designed to connect the island nations to the European Union and U.S. carbon markets, which have an estimated value of $100-400 billion annually in avoided greenhouse gas emissions trading.  Denmark’s pledge of $14.5 million – part of their Copenhagen pledge of “fast start” climate financing – will provide the initial administrative support for the trust fund established in the agreement.

Haverkamp said:

By allowing countries to dock into established trading systems and tap investment streams from developed world emitters working to make their own carbon reduction targets, this agreement really is a pioneering model for what the planet, as a whole, is going to have to do.

SIDS DOCK will help the island nations transition to a sustainable, low-emission energy technologies, with goals of:

  • increasing energy efficiency by 25 percent (from a 2005 baseline)
  • generating a minimum 50 percent of electric power from renewable sources
  • decreasing conventional transportation fuel use 20-30 percent by 2033

View EDF’s press release: Small islands’ huge move toward renewable energy, global carbon market “pioneering model” for world.

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