Thirty-three Small Island Developing States (SIDS) took significant steps towards a cleaner environment today, with the global launch of a half-billion-dollar initiative to avoid marine litter and sustainably manage hazardous chemicals and waste.
Because of many islands’ small size, limited disposal capacity, and prohibitive export costs, over 80 percent of mismanaged waste in SIDS ends up in the ocean, according to UN reports, leading to biodiversity loss, acceleration of climate change effects through emissions from waste, loss of national tourism revenue, and health impacts for local people exposed to the pollution.
Launched at the Conference of Parties of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva today, the $515 million Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-chemical Development in Small Island Developing States program (ISLANDS) will help island countries in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian, and Pacific Ocean regions prevent the release of over 23,000 metric tons of toxic chemicals and more than 185,000 metric tons of marine litter by 2027.
Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), ISLANDS will help participating countries control the import of hazardous substances, soundly dispose of harmful chemicals and waste, and establish circular production systems, in partnership with the private sector.
“ISLANDS represent an unprecedented opportunity for SIDS – for all stakeholders, including governments, businesses and communities, to come together and work collaboratively to improve the health of our fragile environments,” Permanent Secretary of Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, Anita Montoute, said. “The outcomes of this program will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come.”
GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez said the ISLANDS program was designed to have the greatest possible impact by addressing chemicals and waste challenges in a holistic way, also involving companies from the tourism, recycling, and shipping sectors as partners united against pollution.
“Waste management — particularly plastic pollution — is an issue of urgent international concern, and it is essential that we support viable solutions to reduce marine litter and improve livability on land. By collaborating and working closely with industry, the ISLANDS program will allow some of the most world’s vulnerable countries to transform the way waste is treated and make real progress towards building a circular economy. In that sense, this program is going to be important for the whole world,” he said.
ISLANDS includes opportunities for private sector participation at various levels, including recycling training for private sector representatives, increased access to global recycling markets, and funding for small and medium-sized enterprises through initiatives such as the Inter-American Development Bank’s Blue Tech Challenge.
The program has already secured commitments from the private sector, including Carnival Cruise Lines, which will partner with municipal authorities to jointly process local and cruise ship waste in the Caribbean, and tourism and hotel operator Iberostar, which has pledged that by 2025 no waste from its hotels will go to landfill.
Another innovative aspect of ISLANDS is its Waste-Free Shipping Partnership, an initiative that will provide free shipping of recyclables to recycling facilities, saving limited landfill space and creating new opportunities for island-based recycling companies.
In the Pacific, navigation company Swire Shipping has committed in-kind co-finance to help ISLANDS to develop end-of-life vehicle export and recycling businesses, and to provide free shipping of recyclables from Pacific countries to centers on the Pacific rim.
“Through ISLANDS we have the opportunity to scale up our Pacific-based Moana Taka Partnership – an agreement through which our vessels carry containers of recyclable waste, pro bono, to be treated and recycled in the Asia Pacific – to involve all shipping companies servicing small islands and significantly increase recycling rates,” Swire Shipping Managing Director James Woodrow said.
The Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States (ISLANDS) program is a $515-million, five-year initiative backed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and partners. It is implemented through UNEP, UNDP, FAO and the Inter-American Development Bank. Participating countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cook Islands, Dominican Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guyana, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Union of Comoros, and Vanuatu.
About the UN Environment Programme
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
About the Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility is the largest multilateral fund working to enable developing countries to invest in nature. It supports the implementation of international environmental conventions on biodiversity, climate change, chemicals, and desertification. Since 1991, it has provided more than $21.7 billion in grants and blended finance and mobilized an additional $119 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 projects and programs.