Italian Environment Minister Galletti presents recommendations from Malta conference to COP21 in Paris.
The policy scenario for everyone working in sustainability and climate change suddenly seems very different in a post-COP21 world. The accord reached in Paris earlier this month lays out a new framework for planning future action, both at a global and at a local level, and islands are very much part of that vision.
In fact, the concerns and aspirations expressed by delegates at the Greening the Islands conference in Malta were taken to Paris in the form of a set of recommendations, which were presented to the COP21 negotiations by the Italian
Environment Minister, Gian Luca Galletti. While attending the proceedings, Galletti acted as an “ambassador” for islands and delivered the document drawn up by the Greening the Islands delegates, revised by the environmental association Marevivo based on its 30 years of experience working with Italy’s minor islands. The document points out that islands are on the front line in tackling climate change and are potential laboratories for sustainable, integrated solutions.
Its recommendations explicitly called on the COP21 to:
- a) Acknowledge the role of islands as laboratories for solutions for confronting climate change
- b) Issue recommendations to governments and intergovernmental organizations to support and ease investment in sustainability on islands.
Island leaders speak in Paris of global warming threats, but also of opportunities and ambitious actions
The pleas made by the leaders of islands whose very existence is threatened by climate change has for years made headlines, coming to prominence above all in occasion of United Nations climate talks.
This year’s decision to get heads of state to address the COP21 in Paris at the start of the two-week negotiations rather than at the end gave their words added weight. Much attention was made in the media of these declarations, but island leaders stood out not only for their calls for an ambitious, global accord but also for the action that they are taking to combat climate change and embrace a cleaner, more sustainable future. These included many of the countries involved in the Greening the Islands initiative, giving added impulse to its purpose.
President Christopher J. Loeak of the Marshall Islands addressed COP21 as “a father, a grandfather, a custodian of my culture, and a representative of a nation that lies only 2 meters above sea level.” Like the leaders of other small island nations, Loeak framed the Paris agreement as an opportunity to preserve the wellbeing of his people. “Everything I know and everyone I love is in the hands of those of us gathered here today,” he said.
A positive note was struck by Joseph Muscat, prime minister of Malta, which hosted the 2nd Greening the Islands conference in October. He said the Paris meeting should give a signal about the opportunities of taking an ambitious stance. “I stress the opportunities because for too long our negotiators have been stuck in their defensive trenches playing a zero-sum, burden-sharing game, rather than looking over the edge towards the smart, healthy and profitable opportunities that sustainable development offers,” he said.
Many islands also stood out for making bold commitments to the adoption of renewable energy sources.
José Maria Neves, prime minister of Cape Verde, a candidate in the inaugural Greening the Islands Awards, said his islands already get 30% of energy from wind or solar. “Our ambition is to reach 100% use of clean energy in 2030. We have a planting programme of over 8 million trees in coming decades and action on water, to improve food security and fight poverty,” he said, adding that special attention should be made to the seas surrounding islands.
In a similar vein, the island of Samoa made a commitment to reach 100% renewables between 2017 and 2025. “The achievement of an ambitious INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) will require durable, successful partnerships. The finance component of this agreement is a game changer,” said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.
The Micronesian archipelago of Palau expects to reduce emissions by half by 2025 and announced the creation of a huge marine sanctuary that will help ocean life in the area respond to climate impacts while ensuring that a healthy ocean remains a large carbon sink.
The COP21 therefore confirmed the situation captured by Greening the Islands: remote locations are not simply on the frontline of climate change’s negative impacts but represent laboratories for implementing ambitious, clean energy solutions.
Looking forward: Greening the Islands to reconvene in Canary Islands, plus Italy-focused meeting scheduled in Sardinia
SAVE-THE-DATE: 3rd Greening the Islands Conference, Canary Islands, Spain, October 26-28.
The next edition of the Greening the Islands conference will take place on October 26-28, 2016, for the first time in an ocean-side location.
The travelling conference has scheduled a three-day event on Spain’s Canary Islands, an oceanic location that underlines the success of the initiative and the global relevance of issues concerning energy production, water, waste, and mobility in the islands. It will involve an even higher number of government representatives, international organisations, scientists, and companies, who will discuss the best solutions and strategies for islands and remote locations.
As in 2015, the most innovative and successful initiatives will be selected for the Greening the Islands Awards by a jury of international experts.
The conferences are backed by the Greening the Islands’ Scientific Committee, which brings together island governments, international institutions, industry associations, media and other stakeholders, who periodically share their knowledge on technological and political developments. The 2016 edition of “Greening the Islands” represents a unique opportunity for islands to gain additional insight on sustainability solutions, to implement them with the best possible partners and to obtain international visibility for their achievements.
SAVE-THE-DATE: 1st Greening the Islands Italia conference, La Maddalena, Italy, May 27-28.
The international event of the above will be supplemented in 2016 with an Italian edition of Greening the Islands, to be held on La Maddalena, an archipelago of northern Sardinia, on May 27-28.
This event will provide a chance to focus on the efforts being made by Italy’s minor islands and share best practices through networking among professionals working for their environmental sustainability. The event is held thanks to a partnership with the National Association of Minor Island Councils (ANCIM). A special focus will be to identify legal and regulatory barriers in various sectors (energy production, water, waste, electric mobility) and discuss them with institutional representatives.
To learn about participation and sponsorship opportunities for either of these events, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Italy’s ENEA pioneers a model for sustainable tourism development with project in the Egadi Islands
Italy’s Egadi Islands, located off the west coast of Sicily, have been the focus of the first sustainable tourism project to be developed and certified by an Italian scientific institution and is hoped will provide a model for environmentally friendly tourism planning across the country.
In Italy, where tourism accounts for 10.3% of the economy and employs 2.7 million people, this new approach could have a huge impact and is already feeding into planned legislation on the green economy.
The three main Egadi islands – Favignana, Levanzo and Marittimo – are located in Europe’s biggest protected marine area, 53,000 hectares of fragile marine ecosystems, and each year its 4,000 inhabitants receive over 400,000 visitors.
Progetto Egadi has been run by ENEA, Italy’s national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development. The project has involved training, information, mapping of the local area and water risk assessments. It has achieved a reduction in plastic waste of 5 metric tons in 14 months, production of fertilizer from bio-waste and introduced an environmental quality label.
Most notably, the project has coincided with a 7% increase in tourist numbers in the past year. Among the initiatives that make up Progetto Egadi, a drinking water distribution point was installed, powered by solar panels. The unit has distributed 200,000 litres of water in 14 months, saving the equivalent of 140,000 1.5-litre bottles of water from being used.
“The model we have developed is highly replicable and can be tailored to the different Italian tourism environments,” said Roberto Morabito, Head of the ENEA Department of Sustainable Territorial and Production Processes, who developed the project. “The actions implemented have contributed to protect the environment and the territory and to reduce the pressure on natural resources. We’ve also obtained an increase in the number of visitors and a prolonged tourist season from April to October, with consequent economic benefits.”
Inaugural Greening the Islands Awards spotlights projects showing the way forward for sustainable islands
Three projects were put into the spotlight in the first edition of the Greening the
Islands Awards, picked by a five-member jury for the way they implement innovative energy solutions and fully engage local communities around issues such as water and renewable energy.
The winners – from the Spanish island of El Hierro (the smallest of the Canary Islands) and from Malta – beat out competition from locations including Cape Verde, Tonga, the Azores, and Tilos in Greece.
The “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” category was won by El Hierro. In seeking to meet its target of reaching 100% renewable energy, El Hierro is making the most of its natural potential to develop an innovative system that combines wind power and a new pump storage hydro plant. The beauty of the project lies in its ability to store excess energy from its five wind turbines in the form of water because the hydro plant has been created by turning two natural craters into artificial lakes, one almost at sea level and the other positioned on the hillside above. The new project means the current oil-fired power generation system will only be needed in emergencies, saving the island from buying 2 million euros a year in oil.
The winner in the “Sustainable Mobility” category was an electro-mobility project by the port of Malta. A demonstration project targeted at showing the practicability of electro-mobility solutions – integrating electric vehicles, a rooftop solar plant and solar-powered charging stations – was so successful that it convinced the harbour authority of the economic and environmental benefits of doubling its fleet of electricvehicles.
The “Public Awareness Campaigns” category was also won by a project from Malta, highlighting how working towards more sustainable islands isn’t only about technology and infrastructure, but also about public awareness and changing everyday habits towards more responsible behaviours.
The three-year “Catch the Drop” campaign initiated by HSBC Bank Malta aims to reach out to all the island’s 50,000 schoolchildren as a way to raise awareness about water issues, encourage conservation and efficient water use, celebrate “good” water practices and spur participation from schools, companies, NGOs, the general public and local councils. The project benefited from €500,000 funding from HSBC Group as part of the HSBC Water Programme.