Island states must build resilience to existential climate threats

ROME – The massive volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga, followed by another earthquake and aftershocks days later, have once again highlighted the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a meeting convened this week by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) heard.

The global dialogue on solutions for SIDS has focused on the “difficult challenge” these often impoverished low-lying nations face in meeting the goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN said. FAO Chief Economist, Máximo Torero Cullen.

He also highlighted the urgent need to build their resilience to climate change, natural disasters and other external shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Torero Cullen said that was why the agency had made “a concerted decision to prioritize activities for these countries and works closely with SIDS networks and constituencies. , to implement them”.

He explained that FAO helps SIDS to “build back better and achieve better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life.”

Adding that these are the basis of the new strategic framework of the UN agency “to ensure more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems, thus combating hunger, malnutrition, poverty and inequalities”.

With approximately 65 million inhabitants, SIDS account for only one percent of carbon dioxide emissions, yet they are the most vulnerable to the existential threat posed by the impacts of climate change.

While fishing, tourism and agriculture contribute significantly to their economies, the vulnerability of these sectors poses challenges for them to produce enough food to meet the needs of their populations.

“Climate change and the pandemic have clearly shown the need for SIDS to develop resilient and local food systems,” said Maldivian Ambassador and Climate Advocate Thilmeeza Hussain.

SIDS in the Caribbean, Pacific and many small islands in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans – as well as the South China Sea – depend on food imports.

In a video pre-recorded for the United Nations Climate Conference, COP26, Tuvaluan politician Simon Kofe delivered remarks in knee-deep water as a graphic demonstration of the impact of climate change on his country.

Almost all SIDS import 60 percent of their food and 50 percent of island states import more than 80 percent.

As such, they are particularly affected by disruptions to supply chains and international trade, including flight cancellations, shipping sector slowdowns and logistical bottlenecks.

To recover from COVID-19 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Torero Cullen stressed the importance of identifying local solutions and harnessing innovation with digitalization as a force multiplier to accelerate the process.

“Digital technologies can improve the sustainability and efficiency of the agri-food system in SIDS by enabling farmers to become more productive, better access markets, reduce waste and make farming practices more environmentally friendly” , said Hani Eskandar of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The Global Dialogue was jointly organized by FAO Liaison Offices in Brussels, Geneva, New York as well as the FAO Office for SIDS, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries to inform governments and development partners of the outcomes of the SIDS Solutions Forum held in Fiji last August.

This forum has launched a knowledge exchange platform to promote, scale up and replicate locally grown ideas, to accelerate the SDGs related to agriculture, food, environment and health. — UN News

Lynn A. Saleh