UNEP Foresight Report Identifies Emerging Issues for SIDS

UNEPJune 2014: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published a report on priority issues for small island developing States (SIDS). ‘Emerging Issues for Small Island Developing States: Results of the UNEP Foresight Process' is one of UNEP's contributions to the Third International SIDS Conference convening in Apia, Samoa, in September 2014, and it is aligned with one of the thematic issues of the Conference: “identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and ways and means to address them.”

The report focuses on the outcome of the SIDS "Foresight Process" that UNEP undertook in 2013 to identify emerging environmental issues of concern to SIDS. This process followed on the broader 2012 UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Environmental Issues, which identified issues and solutions on a global scale and with a global perspective. A SIDS Foresight Panel, composed of experts from the three SIDS regions, as well as other experts, facilitated the SIDS Foresight Process, which resulted in a consolidated list of 20 priority issues and a final report, incorporating comments from an external review, including by the Foresight Panel, UNEP and the SIDS Community of Practice.

The 20 priority issues address cross-cutting issues, including: developing appropriate indicators of SIDS sustainable development beyond gross domestic product (GDP); developing specialized skills and capacities for island sustainability; and "synergizing" indigenous and local knowledge and modern science as a basis for sustainable island development.

Issues related to rehabilitating biodiversity and ecosystem services include: the threat of invasive alien species; averting tropical montane cloud forest loss; breakdown of sand and sediment due to biodiversity loss; decline of agrobiodiversity and ecosystem functions affecting food and livelihood security; and overfishing and potential collapse of inshore marine ecosystems. Regarding sustainable use of natural resources, issues include: degradation and scarcity of freshwater resources; coastal squeeze and loss of associated ecosystem services; limited land capacity; harnessing renewable energy opportunities; balancing opportunities and risks of exploring unexploited natural resources; and developing an ocean-based green economy.

On managing threats from chemicals and waste, priority issues relate to: globally-emitted contaminants whose impacts SIDS have limited capacity to monitor and manage; indiscriminate and increasing use of pesticides; and greening the waste sector by turning waste into opportunities, including through shifting to reducing, reusing and recycling.

Regarding climate change and its impacts, the report identifies: disproportionate impacts of climate change and sea-level rise in SIDS; intensification of extreme events and external shocks and increasing vulnerability of SIDS; and climate and environmental change that leads to population displacement.

In relation to the SIDS Foresight Process, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held a workshop to identify emerging socioeconomic challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS, recognizing SIDS diversity, and the fact that “different issues impact different SIDS in different ways.” The DESA workshop resulted in a list of 15 socioeconomic issues, which is included in the second part of the report. These issues are: the need to diversify SIDS economies; innovative approaches to debt relief; shoring up traditional local and indigenous knowledge; reinforcing social cohesion; opportunities for youth; emerging gender challenges; health challenges; preserving an authentic cultural heritage and identity; sustainable tourism; climate and economic drivers of migration; the future of food security in SIDS; freshwater management; the need for enhanced disaster preparedness; economic and social impacts of climate change; and diminishing resources for development financing. [Publication: Emerging Issues for Small Island Developing States: Results of the UNEP Foresight Process (Advance Copy)] [UNEP Foresight Process Website]