“No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us,” said marine biologist Sylvia Earle in a documentary that followed her campaign to save the world’s oceans. Her words ring especially true for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which depend heavily on oceans for their development.
SIDS have borne the brunt of the climate crisis for many years, despite contributing little to it. Yet, they are showing significant ambition and commitment to transformation. The island states are turning to their marine environment, renewable energy, and digital innovation to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
Riad Meddeb, Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Sustainable Development, shares challenges that SIDS face and how they are making progress on their climate goals.
Banking on nature for coastal protection
SIDS are often remotely located from the rest of the world, surrounded by oceans, and have limited access to resources. This makes them highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and habitat degradation.
Natural marine resources could help to protect the coasts of SIDS. SIDS have rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources across 90.1 per cent of the world’s oceans, but the potential to tap on this remains largely unexplored, Meddeb notes.
These marine resources can keep the impact of climate change at bay. For instance, coastal wetland plants like salt marshes and seagrass beds capture and store carbon dioxide so they are not released into the atmosphere. Mangroves also protect coastal areas from storm surges and flooding.