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Sea Level Rise in Small Island Nations to Cost Trillions in Annual Economic Loss


The exploration of these new frontiers of natural resources presents opportunities to meet a broad range of economic and social aspirations. Some countries are already expanding into these new areas, as seen in Papua New Guinea, which has embarked on exploratory activities for mining of seabed manganese nodules and rare earth elements.

SIDS have the opportunity to set a precedent for the sustainable exploration of these resources. Embarking on these new ventures will, however, come with diverse responsibilities; it is necessary, therefore, to conduct detailed scientific resource assessments to aid the development of robust guidelines and frameworks for sustainable management.

Developing an Ocean-based Green Economy

For most SIDS, transitioning to a green economy implies an ocean-based green economy because of the socio-economic importance of the ocean to these countries.

There are many practical and political challenges in this transition, and risks and opportunities must be scientifically assessed. Approaches and solutions exist that can be adapted by SIDS and governments, and have an important role to play in providing the enabling conditions for this transition.

The Foresight Report was part of a wider process, which included the input of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). A joint session with UN DESA identified 15 linked socio-economic issues that should be addressed, including diversifying the economies of SIDS, innovation in debt relief, and the future of food security.

The Barbados Example

While the Foresight Report focused on all SIDS, the Green Economy Scoping Study focused on Barbados – although the lessons presented can be applied to many other nations.

A synthesis of the study – carried out in conjunction with the Government of Barbados and the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus – was first released in 2012, and the government has already begun to act on the recommendations.

The report finds that the green economy approach offers opportunities for managing natural capital, diversifying the economy, creating green jobs, increasing resource efficiency and supporting poverty reduction and sustainable development. It shows that there is massive potential in Barbados – for example in energy, where a saving of US $ 280 million can be made through a 29 per cent switch to renewables by 2029.

It also finds opportunities for growth in the following areas:

Agriculture: Greening a restructured sugar cane industry and the adoption and promotion of organic agriculture.

Fisheries: An increase in the utilisation of clean technologies; the conversion of fish into fertilizer, compost and pellets for animal feed; and better collaboration on trans-boundary marine jurisdictions and resource-use in the region.

Building/Housing: Improving resource efficiency, reducing waste and the use of toxic substances, and enhancing water efficiency and sustainable site development.

Transport: The creation of green jobs, particularly in the provision and maintenance of fuel-efficient vehicles; technology transfer and the management of an integrated public transport system.

Tourism: Marketing Barbados as a green destination, developing heritage and agro-tourism, and creating partnerships for promoting marine conservation.


Click here to download the SIDS Foresight Report.

Click here to download the Barbados Green Economy Scoping Study.


Source: UNEP.


About the Foresight Process

The 2012 UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Global Environmental Issues primarily identified emerging environmental issues and possible solutions on a global scale and perspective. In 2013, UNEP carried out a similar exercise to identify priority emerging environmental issues that are of concern to SIDS. The report, produced by a panel of 11 SIDS experts, presents the outcome of the Foresight exercise and is one of UNEP’s contributions to the Third International SIDS Conference, to take place in Samoa in September 2014.

About World Environment Day

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet. World Environment Day 2014 focused on the threat to SIDS, running under the slogan “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level”. 2014 is also the International Year of SIDS. For more information, visit www.unep.org/wed/.