UNDP SIDS Bulletin | Issue 35

Rowely Parico • 5 April 2021

Issue 35 | March 2021

Many SIDS are frontrunners and early movers in the race to zero. The Dominican Republic, Mauritius and Nauru are among the 20 Global Champions who will spearhead advocacy efforts to help drive impactful results at the September High-Level Dialogue on Energy. This month, they joined their fellow Champions in kicking off the process leading up towards this significant summit-level dialogue – watch their video messages here. As you can read in this bulletin, a net-zero future is not only necessary, but there is also consensus among climate economists that these ambitions and targets by 2050 will most likely be cost-benefit justified. 

As ambitions remain high and countries are putting in place roadmaps to realize targets systemic economic obstacles and debt problems remain. Recently, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda underscored once again the importance of global action and support for helping SIDS to overcome financing gaps and structural challenges to ensuring prosperous green recovery. In this bulletin we explore pathways to address these challenges. From forging an equitable pathway for the blue economy to how rescheduling debt for climate and nature can unlock sustainable recovery. Learn how UNDP is supporting to safeguard progress on the SAMOA Pathway and SDGs towards resilient, inclusive societies and diversified economies.  

Keywords: large ocean states, debt sustainability, green recovery, blue economy, climate action, digital transformation, accelerator lab, spatial planning, nature-based solutions, water security
 
Country Corner
Image: Haiti/ Zach Vessels/ Unsplash 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that anthropogenic activities have caused approximately 1.0C in global warming above pre-industrial levels. This value is projected to increase to 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 in a business as usual emissions scenario and this would certainly create a huge impact on ecosystems and organisms. An important question to pose is: are we on the brink of extinction? Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) confirms that the unprecedented decline in nature has threatened around 1 million species with extinction. Now, we only have less than a decade to avoid the catastrophic effects of the climate crisis but in small island developing states, these ‘catastrophic effects’ are already taking place, compounded by development trends and other external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Haiti, in collaboration with UNDP, is implementing adaptation plans in order to lessen the intensity of climate change impacts on its ecosystems, biodiversity, and livelihoods—starting with a nature mapping program to sustainably protect and restore nature. These are so-called “maps of hope” which will be used to identify the areas essential to protecting, restoring, and managing nature to ensure sustainable life in Haiti. Promoting nature-based solution would require a strong foundation and this is what the mechanism aims to establish as it started with a workshop to discuss existing data capacity in Haiti which relates to degradation of natural resources, the prevention of disaster risks, or socio-economic data relating to sustainable development. “Solutions based on nature offer opportunities to live in harmony with it, with real benefits in the longer term, and at much less cost than artificial solutions, neglecting the weight of nature.” This resonates well in the SIDS Offer’s Climate Action and Digital Transformation pillars as UNDP aims to leverage nature-based solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation, specifically the use of spatial data to develop maps of “essential life support areas.” 
 
Image: Cook Islands/ UNDP Climate

Building forward better in SIDS requires bolstering resilience to withstand a future that will be marked by increasing uncertainty and risk. In Samoa, diversifying the agriculture and fisheries sectors is key to unlocking the country’s green and blue economy potential. These sectors are of particular importance to the country’s economy and society. It is estimated that 30 % of all exports of the country consist of fishery products. That is why this initiative will work towards creating a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive fisheries and agricultural sectors capable of buffering risks including through identifying innovative niche market opportunities within the sectors and expanding the Youth Koko Innovation Initiative under the UNDP Youth Employment Programme Phase 2. Through a strong partnership with the Government of Japan, the Government of Samoa with UNDP as implementing partner is initiating the COVID-19 Preparedness and Recovery Diversification of the Economic Sector in Samoa (CPRDESS) initiative. 60 % of the target beneficiaries of the initiative will be women and youth. For many SIDS, strengthening the paradigm of a sustainable blue economy and building a resilient agricultural sector, holds the key to economic and social development – in particular, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of relying on the tourism industry. Building prosperous, inclusive green recoveries and realizing the ambitions of the SAMOA Pathway and 2030 Agenda will require this kind of transformative initiative that harnesses the innovative potential of communities and youth, and aims at promoting high levels of decent and sustainable employment to protect livelihoods and diversifying economies towards.  
 
Image: Seychelles/ Kevin Kyburz/ Unsplash
Every drop counts: ensuring water security in SIDS using nature-based and digital solutions 

There is a certain irony in SIDS experiencing water scarcity despite having larger areas of water than landmasses. So, how do SIDS adapt to secure the production of water for drinking and for farming? As SIDS advance their way toward a resilient future, these nations are harnessing nature-based and digital solutions in order to thrive. In the Maldives, a US$28.2 million (five-year) initiative to install rainwater harvesting systems and secure year-round safe, reliable, and uninterrupted water supply to more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable Maldivians is activated by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and UNDP. A definite game-changer, this initiative is produced in partnership with the Maldives Meteorological Service, to gather weather data so the communities could monitor the weather conditions using the app, Moosun. An essential digital solution to efficiently harvest and manage rainwater. It also promotes community involvement in water management and the increase in participation of women in water-related decision making. And to promote long-term resilience, it includes the “collection of baseline data, establishing monitoring processes and building capacities within government offices for groundwater recharge and management strategies that consider the risks of sea-level rise.” Like in many SIDS, communities in Seychelles are also challenged in accessing water because of difficult topography and limited water storage capacity. With a clear goal to solve this in a sustainable manner, Seychelles prioritizes nature-based solution in putting forest, planet, and people at the heart of adaptation with the initiative, Ecosystem-Based Adaptation to Climate Change in Seychelles by the Adaptation Fund. The aim is to support the maintenance and restoration of the natural functioning of the watersheds and coastal processes, making water more accessible to communities while protecting them against flooding. “This EBA project indicates that with some ingenuity, and a planning process that focuses on the local population, resources for climate adaptation can presently be used in a way that provides maximum benefit, whilst also creating the conditions for future climate resilience.” Indeed whether it is about the use of nature-based solutions or integrating digital solutions, as “early adaptors,” SIDS can provide vital lessons for adaptation efforts to the global community.
 
Submit a UNDP story to the Country Corner section
Click the image to watch the recording of the launch of the UNDP Maldives Accelerator Lab
 
UNDP Maldives recently joined UNDP’s Global Accelerator Labs Network in creating actionable intelligence on the greatest sustainable development challenges. The Maldives Accelerator Lab serves as space to "(1) bring national development ecosystem actors, (2) identify and elevate the reach and impact of grassroots solutions and innovators, (3) co-design and test the next generation of public policies and development solutions in the country." As the global community builds forward better, out-of-the-box green solutions are needed more than ever and the Maldives Accelerator Lab's First Learning Cycle looks into labour market exclusion, the importance of technology in innovating for the future, and how "holistic approaches that create, develop, and enhance school-based, out-of-school, and workplace-based interventions to promote developing soft skills among adolescents and young adults are necessary, more than ever if we are to empower our youth." 
Check out the 'Frontier Dialogues' podcast to learn more about the journey of establishing the Maldives Accelerator Lab.
In the News
Image: Cruise ships in the Bahamas. Cruise ship tourism in the region came to a virtual halt due to the pandemic.

How Caribbean economies can avoid
becoming COVID Long-Haulers
 

Caribbean economies were among the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic especially due to their high dependence on tourism, geographic constraints and limited fiscal maneuvering space. In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for for 42 % of total exports in the region, and tourism is of immense importance to other sectors including agriculture, food, beverages, construction, transport, creative industry, and other services. 2020 saw hotel stays declining by 70 % and a virtual halt to cruise ship travel – tourism-dependent countries contracted by 9.8 % last year. With a high proportion of employment tied to tourism, the shock will lead to long-term setbacks for human development, including increased poverty and inequality and job losses disproportionately impacting women and youth. Despite financial support being provided, the IMF estimates that the region could be facing a financing gap at around $4 billion, equaling 4.8 % of regional GDP. So, how can Caribbean economies avoid the economic fallout far outlasting the health crisis? This article suggests a combination of short and longer-term policies, from regional cooperation to ensure efficient vaccination rollouts to long-term structural reform to tackle debt problems to diversifying tourism. In a recent event, Caribbean government representatives and academics came together to discuss prospects of long-term recovery strategy and the need to move towards a new classification for their economies, beyond purely income based. For Caribbean economies to overcome the estimated financing gap of $4 billion – which is at risk of widening further due to extreme weather events – structural changes are necessary, such as approaching a multidimensional vulnerability index to reassess criteria for accessing concessional finance.  

 
Image: Michael Olsen/ Unsplash

IMF’s SDR allocation of US$650 billion could restart the global economy and promote green recovery
 

As the global community devises plans to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and restart the economy, many small island developing states are questioning whether a green recovery is achievable due to the surmounting problem of ‘debt distress.’ Recently, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the strong need for debt relief to boost recovery in hard-hit countries such as SIDS, considering the collapse of commodity trade and tourism—making it difficult to proceed with their green transition despite strong commitments. The Secretary-General added, “Unless we take decisive action on debt and liquidity challenges, we risk another ‘lost decade’ for many developing countries, putting the achievement of the SDGs by the 2030 deadline definitively out of reach.” Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda emphasized their economic woes and feared that the green developments they have gained may be eroded. “We find ourselves underwater and at risk of sinking even deeper,” Belize’s Minister of State Christopher Coye when discussing the country's debt-to-GDP ratio reaching 130%. Coming to aid in the economic recovery, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is discussing injecting special drawing rights (SDR) of US$650 billion into the global economy, which could be leveraged by low- and middle-income countries to finance green recovery and build forward better. In line with this, are the efforts to open the consideration of using climate and debt vulnerability as key criteria for reallocating support. Injecting liquidity would not aid the systemic issue of the global debt architecture, that is why many call for more comprehensive approaches to follow through a sustainable recovery, such as the global debt relief blueprint promoting a “green and inclusive recovery”. Other calls have focused on new financial instruments like the liquidity and sustainability facility by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to mobilize the SDRs while developing a medium-term green investment strategy or 'nature performance bonds'a newly evolved and more scalable version of debt-for-climate swaps. As a contribution to the ongoing efforts to support the development of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, UNDP recently released a discussion paper drawing on existing indices and proposing a pathway forward that would account for reality and risks SIDS and many developing countries face. With all these development initiatives to push a green recovery, 2021 is proving to be a pivotal year in building a sustainable future and supporting debt-laden nations to address their systemic challenges. 

Resources
Image: Grenada/ Hugh Whyte/ Unsplash
Taking the equitable pathway in transforming ocean sectors for a thriving blue economy

The blue economy was launched at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and is increasingly becoming popular as a development framework. One example is the framework launched by the World Bank and the European Commission in 2019, which identified Kiribati as one of three coastal countries it will be piloted in. Under the UNDP SIDS Offer, the blue economy promotes the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, jobs, and social and financial inclusion”, focusing on the preservation and restoration of the health of coastal and marine ecosystems. However, in order to maximize the potential benefits of the blue economy, it is argued that a focus on social equity must be instilled. How do we ensure that traditional users are not excluded from growth that is based on oceanic resources? And how do we steer clear from overexploitation, especially trying to catch up after the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic? Gaining status as ‘large ocean states’ with vast marine resources, SIDS must take a closer look at the “extent to which equitable and sustainable benefits are likely to [be] achievable in ocean economies.” This article published on Nature, suggests that resource availability should by far not be the only factor that is considered when blue growth is being discussed. On the contrary, the authors found that other, so-called “enabling factors”, such as social conditions and governance capacity, are even more decisive. Blue carbon, ecotourism, fishing and mariculture are found to be most important at the local level, not necessarily on a larger scale, therefore not benefit a majority of stakeholders, who may feel betrayed by a promise made by stronger growth projections. In the short-term, the blue economy could enable good economic recovery in SIDS because of their abundant ocean resources, but there is a catch: this may risk resource-rich states to harvest unsustainably and to underinvest in enabling factors, such as infrastructure, biodiversity, human rights, or anti-corruption programs, which may be equally or even more essential. This signifies that as SIDS plan for the development of their blue economy putting inclusion at the centre in their planning will be essential to driving progress towards the SAMOA Pathway and 2030 Agenda. Only when key enabling conditions are present and gaps are addressed, can the benefits of the blue economy fully unfold and the development framework can deliver on its promise.

 
Image: NASA/ Unsplash

This year’s theme of World Meteorological Day underlines the inextricable link between ocean, climate and weather in order to gauge the impacts of climate change, help prepare adaptation plans to reduce the risk of disaster and help maintain viable economies. A specific call for improved monitoring of the ocean and atmosphere is posed to enhance scientific understanding. And while we bolster ocean science for better forecasting climate variability, we must also make surface-based observations more accessible because, “behind every weather forecast, every early warning of life-threatening hazards, and every long-term climate change projection are observational data.” World Bank, together with World Meteorological Organization and the Met Office (UK), published a report which explores the significant societal benefits of weather forecasting especially when its accuracy is improved through meteorological monitoring, modelling and computing. But what does this actually entail? Lead author Daniel Kull and co-authors explained that improving the accuracy of the data is achievable by investing in surface-based observations in data-sparse regions such as SIDS. With this weather data gap fulfilled, “weather-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, energy, transport and construction, and disaster risk management can benefit by over US$ 160 billion per year [worldwide].” With all these in mind, the authors suggest that investing in countries where data are sparse is needed to increase the number of observations—with high confidence that this could create the highest impact on the quality of weather predictions and climate analysis products. For SIDS bridging this data gap could support to build the resilience needed to safeguard these sectors in the future.  
 
 
Image: Karsten Würth/ Unsplash

74 % of climate economists call for immediate and drastic action – but a majority also harbor optimism for a green economy

What happens when you ask 738 climate economists how climate change is likely to impact our society and economy? You will end up with a mixed bag of urgency and optimism. When the Institute of Policy Integrity at New York University conducted what is predicted to be the largest survey of climate economists to date, they found that 76% of believe it is likely or very likely that climate change will negatively affect global economic growth rate. The similar story of urgency was unveiled when UNDP and partners' People’s Climate Vote surveying 1.2 million people globally on climate change found that 64% said that climate change was an emergency. The consensus was even greater among those surveyed in SIDS, where 74 % believed this to be true – this number mirrors the percentage of climate economists surveyed by the Institute of Policy Integrity that said, “immediate and drastic action is necessary.” Furthermore, the vast majority (89%) of climate economist respondents believe that climate change will exacerbate income inequality between high income and low-income countries. But beyond establishing consensus on the urgency of climate change, the survey provides a useful tool and expert insights to inform policy makers weighing the benefits and costs of various climate strategies and can help improve policy-relevant modeling of climate damages. On the optimistic side, the report focuses on the potential of technological innovation in the renewable energy field. Over the past decade costs for solar PV have dropped 7 % and 4% annually for onshore wind. 65% of respondents believe that these patterns are likely or very likely to be replicable for some other emerging clean technologies. The results also provide solid justification for the economic viability of bold climate mitigation strategies, including net-zero GHG targets by 2050. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that these net-zero goals are “likely” or “very likely” to be cost-benefit justified. As pressure globally and especially from SIDS grow to ramp up climate ambitions particularly ahead of the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, these results add yet another convincing argument for driving efforts towards a green economy.  

 

Carving a path to sustainable livelihoods in Fiji

This piece details the inspiring experience of Evgeniya Kleshcheva as she shared her inspiring experience as a UN Volunteer working with the inclusive growth team, supporting local-led solutions (e.g. entrepreneurship, small and micro businesses, livelihoods, and innovations) to socio-economic issues as a response to COVID-19 and the economic downturn in Fiji.

 
How is the Asia-Pacific region faring to deliver the SDGs? And with the COVID-19 pandemic, how is the progress affected? These are some of the questions answered in the recently published report by The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A 'National SDG Tracker' tool is also developed to support countries in following up and reviewing the 2030 Agenda.
 

Towards a harmonized international trade classification for the development of sustainable ocean-based economies 

Published by UNCTAD, this report seeks to assess trades in ocean-based sectors and to propose a sustainable ocean economy classification for tradable goods and services that is accessible for all the countries' use—based on the principles: applicability, standardization, comprehensiveness and flexibility.

 

Currently, only 2.7% of the ocean is highly protected and this far from the goal to protect 30% of the world's oceans by 2030. This report accentuates the importance of oceans—from restoring biodiversity to increasing the annual global catch and even securing the marine carbon stocks—and proposes a prioritization framework to aid national marine spatial plans and global targets for marine conservation. 
 

Fiji has been experiencing the intense effects of climate change and one of the repercussions is the displacement of communities. This Devex piece sheds light on community-led relocation efforts in Fiji and how the lessons could guide climate displacement policy and guidelines in the Pacific region. 
 
The 20th episode of Frontier Dialogues is dedicated to International Women's Day, featuring Fathimath Shaazleen—the first Maldivian female resort in the Maldives—to explore gender in the workplace in the Maldives and understand the labour market in the country.
Upcoming Opportunities and Events

How can we achieve our net-zero carbon ambition? Tune in as top international energy and climate leaders discuss how nations could ramp up efforts to accelerate the momentum behind clean energy and how to work together to reduce GHG emissions toward a sustainable future.

When: March 31, 12 PM- 3PM (CEST)

WATCH BACK
Rethinking Debt: Financing the Future Amid Crisis
"What can we learn from past debt restructuring efforts? What policy options do countries have to enhance resilient debt financing, support efficient debt restructuring when needed, and increase debt transparency?" This event by the World Bank will delve into the different perspectives concerning a new international financial architecture for debt and the possible consequences of inaction the global community may face.
 
When: April 7, 12 PM (ET)

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
 

Co-hosted by the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform and IDB Invest on the margins of the World Bank Spring Meetings, the first High-Level Meeting of the Blue Road to COP 26 will tackle the role of governments, companies and financial institutions in ensuring a resilient, equitable, and net-zero emissions future through financing ocean-climate solutions. 

When: April 8, 9AM (EDT)
 

This event by the World Bank will be a space to discuss solutions sectors, highlight key priorities for COP26, and explore the possible strategies for countries to shape a resilient recovery that works for people and planet.

When: April 8, 11AM (ET)
 
 
 
Aquaculture has been around for a long time now but innovations are needed in order to meet the demands of the world while preventing overexploitation of marine resources. This three-part Aquaculture Innovation Webinar gathers aquaculture experts from Norway, Israel, and Singapore to share trends and opportunities for aquaculture in order to explore various methods in sustainable farming.

When: April 22 3 PM-5 PM (SGT)
REGISTER
The theme for this year's meeting is 'Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery' as leaders look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic when reviving the economies. This meeting is not only timely and relevant but essential as we move forward toward a green future.
 
When: May 3-5, 2021
Registration opens: April 5


REGISTER
 
Do you have any innovative ideas focusing on the theme, 'Sustainable Fisheries,' specifically SDG targets 14.4, 14.7, 14.b? Then make sure the 'Ocean Innovation Challenge' does not miss it! Project proponents are allowed to include governments, private companies (even start-ups!), NGO/CSO, UN entities, academic institutions, and intergovernmental organizations. Submit your preliminary proposal online on or before May 9, 2021 23:59 CET. If successful, applicants shortlisted will need to submit a more detailed proposal and by late 2021, UNDP's final 2021 Ocean Innovators will be announced. 
Learn more and apply here
 

Island Finance Forum 2021 

This virtual event will give the audience a clear idea of the unique financial challenges faced by global island communities. The Island Finance Forum 2021 will also share solutions for sustainable economic recovery and discuss how inclusive growth in a post-pandemic world could be achieved. The forum aims to: (1) bridge the gap between sustainable development practitioners and financial stakeholders; (2) help island stakeholders access expert knowledge and financial opportunities available to them; (3) showcase the economic opportunities available from investing in the sustainability sector on islands--such as impact investing and ESG. 

When: April 13-16, 2021

Register
 

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