Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and President James Michel of the Seychelles on Monday joined with former U.S. President Bill Clinton of the Clinton Global Initiative to launch “Blue Guardians” in the United States.
Blue Guardians is a partnership facilitated by an international consortium of public and private organisations that aims to develop sustainable island economies while increasing resilience to climate change by supporting coastal communities, marine and fisheries conservation, and clean renewable energy.
“Small Island Developing States are one of the most vulnerable groupings of countries,” Gonsalves said at the launching.
“Our sustainable development and our very existence depend heavily on the conduct of others. We have been endangered by the profligate consumption of resources by other countries, and we have been disappointed by the broken promises of increased development assistance and debt relief.”
Gonsalves said Caribbean small island developing states have, by and large, been experiencing “anaemic post-financial-crisis growth”, adding that their GDPs have been “battered with regularity and ferocity by the impacts of climate change.
“So, today, we welcome this initiative. Blue Guardians will focus on new opportunities for developing the vast energy resources of our oceans in order to build climate resilient island economies. I believe it represents the last best hope to save the life of the seas and ourselves. All partners involved should be proud of this unprecedented action,” he said.
Blue Guardians is a partnership established by the governments of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through SIDS DOCK, a renewable energy initiative that connects the energy sector in SIDS with the global market for finance.
The partnership includes leading private sector technology and data providers, including DigitalGlobe; the Clinton Climate Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation; multi-lateral development organizations, including the World Bank; and conservation NGOs such as Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and GRID-Arendal.
“Satellite imagery and geospatial analytics can catalyse systemic change and have a transformational impact in the way developing island nations make informed decisions regarding their resources as an engine of inclusive growth,” said Taner Kodanaz, director of DigitalGlobe’s Seeing a Better World™ Program.
“Outcome-based partnerships like Blue Guardians can benefit SIDS by laying a data, policy, and management foundation that enables a global process for climate-smart planning, adaptation, and mitigation.”
SIDS contribute the least to climate change, yet are feeling the greatest impact of its consequences. Climate adaptation for many of these countries is a matter of survival.
While small in landmass, SIDS govern over vast territorial oceans and coastlines when their exclusive economic zones are included. These areas are threatened by climate change, leading to increased ocean acidification, decline in fisheries, and more frequent and severe storms. Historically, development of these huge ocean spaces and their abundant, and often unknown, marine resources have largely been limited to fisheries, tourism, and fossil fuel extraction.
“Oceans are the largest natural carbon sinks on earth,” said Dymphna van der Lans, CEO of the Clinton Climate Initiative. “Maintaining healthy oceans and resilient coasts is vital to reverse the effects of climate change.”
However, if properly managed, these ocean and coastal areas also present the greatest opportunity for island nations to capture sustainable benefits of their blue economies while increasing their resilience to climate change. A lack of adequate information has meant that island nations have not optimized the potential benefits of this great resource.
“Climate change is the single largest challenge facing global leaders today,” said James Michel, president of Seychelles. “And none of us can solve it alone. Our individual actions will count for little if they don’t contribute to a comprehensive global approach. When we look at our ocean, we are reminded of the threat that sea level rise poses for all of us. But we are also inspired, because we believe that our oceans also offer us the best route to respond together against climate change.”
With the formal establishment of SIDS DOCK as an intergovernmental organization of the United Nations, Blue Guardians will assist island nations with broadening their economic and sustainable development master plans to include ocean and coastal management, and will help SIDS implement the goals outlined by the Samoa Pathway. Blue Guardians will leverage big data solutions and harness informational tools to allow SIDS to set priorities in sustainably managing their fisheries, tourism and renewable energy sectors. The program is also raising a Blue Guardians multi-donor trust fund that will go to participating islands for technical assistance, data acquisition and natural resource management.