World Environment Day: Climate change and Small Islands
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Last Updated: Wednesday, June 04, 2014, 16:29
  
Salome Phelamei

As we celebrate World Environment Day (WED) every year on 5th of June, many people pledge to make some positive contribution for the environment, whereas for some this day is just `another event` that happens annually.

Our Mother Earth - we owe it for our life, existence and much more. We need to preserve it not just for ourselves, but for our future generations as well.


This year, the event is being globally hosted by Barbados, a small Caribbean island, leading the way in solar energy. The Caribbean island, which is at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change, becomes the first Small Island Developing State to host World Environment Day.

The theme for this year is `Small Island Developing States and Climate Change`, and the official slogan is `Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level`.

Although, WED activities take place all year round, the climax is on June 5. On this day, leaders from around the world gather at Independence Square in the capital Bridgetown, Barbados, for the celebration.

The global conference will see environmentalists and leaders from governmental, non-governmental organisations, and NGOs chalking out plans for positive environmental action to protect nature and our planet Earth.


Climate change – the foremost challenge

The impacts of climate change pose grievous threats to all of us and not just to the islands. As the theme asserts ` Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level`, it`s time that we all act swiftly by doing something positive for the environment.

While there are many challenges these small islands face - climate change is the foremost challenge, topping above all others such as waste management, degradation of natural resources, unsustainable consumption and extreme disasters.

Small Islands Developing States around the world are already facing a host of risks related to climate change, from temperature increase that negatively affects agriculture to sea level rise that threatens the very existence of some nations, as pointed out by UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

It is predicted that many of these inhabited small islands are potentially in peril of being lost to sea-level rise.

According to the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), global sea levels are rising at an alarming rate which is projected to increase this century.

Action plan

However, these small islands - from Palau to Puerto Rico to Fiji, have been successful in the fight against the environmental issues by innovating their way to a diverse, low-carbon, green society.

Barbados, a 430-square kilometer nation with a population of 270,000, is considered to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change including agricultural impacts and destruction of its coastal ecosystems.

The country is steadfastly overcoming these challenges through its work in transitioning to a green economy.

Yet, this small country has taken big steps to reduce its climate consequence and to provide clean, renewable energy and opportunities for green economic growth to its people.

Among other things, Barbados has pledged to increase the share of renewable energy across the island to 29% of all electricity consumption by 2029. This would cut total electricity costs by an estimated USD 283.5 million and reduce CO2 emissions by 4.5 million tonnes, according to the government.

In celebrating WED this year, the country’s goal is “to be heard loudly and clearly, maintaining the place of Barbados firmly in the mainstream of the discourse and action on the future of Small Island Developing States,” said Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart.

About World Environment Day

World Environment Day is celebrated each year on June 5 with different theme.

The first World Environment Day was celebrated in 1973 and since then, it has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations encourages positive action for the environment.

Engaging millions across the globe through events on the ground in over 100 countries, World Environment Day is a big celebration and is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Talking about the environment only on this day and forget about it for the rest of the year would not help. We need to be aware and strive to make changes in our daily activities. No matter how big or small your action may be every input counts, which in turn will help us in saving our world from deteriorating further.



First Published: Wednesday, June 04, 2014, 16:29


(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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