A new manual that will enable policymakers to calculate the true value of ecosystems for a transition to a green economy across the world’s 52 small island developing states (SIDS), was launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at a ceremony celebrating the end of the International Year of SIDS. The manual highlights the strong interdependency between the natural environment and the economy of SIDS and the importance of accounting for the contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being in order to be able to quantify and manage those benefits.
It is revealed, for example, that in the Federate States of Micronesia the contribution of fisheries to GDP amounts to 10 per cent, and in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Seychelles and Vanuatu the tourism industry accounts for over 50 per cent of GDP. Exports are also largely supported by local ecosystems. Fifty-two per cent of the exports of the Caribbean island of Grenada are nutmeg, tuna, frozen albacore and cocoa beans. While in Trinidad and Tobago petroleum and natural gas represent 54 per cent of exports.
The Guidance Manual on Valuation and Accounting of Ecosystem Services for Small Island Developing States is seen as a timely and critical tool for mainstreaming island ecosystem services in conventional economic decision-making frameworks, and ultimately supporting policymakers’ ability to achieve sustainable development.
The guidance manual is being launched at an event to mark the close of what was a momentous year for SIDS and attended by Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, and the Champions of the International Year of SIDS.
“Rio+20 emphasized that SIDS have unique vulnerabilities and require special attention during the evolution of the sustainable development agenda in order to achieve the gains required to lift people out of poverty, create green jobs and provide sustainable energy for all,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“For example, these 52 nations, home to over 62 million people, emit less than one per cent of global greenhouse gases, yet they suffer disproportionately from the climate change that global emissions cause.”
“Fortunately, studies demonstrate that we have the tools and capabilities to head off future developmental setbacks. It is up to the international community to support SIDS – not least through building momentum towards a robust climate agreement – to be agreed in 2015, which will cut emissions and minimize the threat of climate change for these nations,” he added.
UNEP’s SIDS Foresight Report, launched in 2014, identifies climate change impacts and related sea-level rise as the chief concern among twenty emerging issues impacting the environmental resilience and sustainable development prospects of SIDS – including coastal squeeze, land capacity, invasive alien species and threats from chemicals and waste.
In all SIDS regions, coral reefs, the frontline for adaptation, are already severely impacted by rising sea surface temperatures. The global net loss of the coral reef cover – around 34 million hectares over two decades – will cost the international economy an estimated US$ 11.9 trillion, with SIDS especially impacted by the loss.
In the insular Caribbean, for example, up to 100 per cent of coral reefs in some areas have been affected by bleaching due to thermal stress linked to global warming. Climate threats are projected to push the proportion of reefs at risk in the Caribbean to 90 per cent by 2030 and up to 100 per cent by 2050.
World Environment Day, held in Barbados on June 5th 2014, adopted SIDS in the broader context of climate change as its theme. The event garnered global coverage and helped build momentum towards the Third International Conference on SIDS, which took place from 1-4 September in Apia, Samoa. At the Samoa event, nearly 300 partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society organizations from all over the world were registered to support SIDS, bringing the total value of these commitments to over US $19 billion.
The manual includes many examples of accounting and valuation techniques in action, and is related to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, which is a global initiative focused on attracting attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity and the growing cost of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.
See this and other UNEP publications here.