Every year on World Environment Day the United Nations encourages global action for the environment. Across the world, people come together to combine their individual actions into a collective effort to make a positive contribution to the environment.
This year, in recognition of the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), attention is focused on the SIDS who stand in the front-line facing the impacts of climate change. The combined annual output of SIDS greenhouse gases is less than one per cent of total global emissions and yet their homes and livelihoods are at threat from floods and storm surges as increasing sea temperatures resulting from climate change lead to rising sea levels.
“Overall, climate change adaptation is a top priority in SIDS, but lack of financial resources is an obstacle,” says UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner. “However, considering that the capital cost of sea-level rise in the Caribbean Community Countries alone is estimated to reach USD 187 billion by 2080 under current practices, investing now to head off such a massive economic impact makes sound business sense.”
Some SIDS are leaders in disaster preparedness and prevention, or are working to achieve climate neutrality though the use of renewable energy and other approaches. For example in 2012 Tokelau, a small nation comprising of three atolls and a total of 1,411 inhabitants in the Central Pacific Ocean, constructed solar grids that meet 100% of the its energy needs and ended the nation’s dependence on diesel-powered energy.
You as an individual can also make a contribution to tackling climate change. To kick-start action, four United Nations Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassadors have challenged everyone to reduce food waste, power down, reduce plastic use, and go greener. World Environment Day will also be celebrated through sport, art, film, music and education at events organized by schools, companies and communities across the world.
“This year, I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future,” says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Raise your voice, not the sea level. Planet Earth is our shared island. Let us join forces to protect it.”