Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues, and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), Ronald Jumeau, discusses how the organisation is helping to promote debt swaps as an innovative tool for financing climate change adaptation.
My island home, Seychelles, is one of the world’s natural wonders. It comprises 115 magnificent granitic and coralline islands that stretch far across the rich and biodiverse Western Indian Ocean. As with many island countries, Seychelles is a small country in terms of landmass, yet as a large ocean state we are guardians of vast swathes of ocean teeming with life and wealth which, if tapped sustainably, can sustain many generations to come.
We Seychellois call ourselves the children of the ocean. 99% of Seychelles’ territory is ocean. The ocean is our lifeline and defines who we are. To achieve sustainable economic growth all solutions must encompass the sustainable management, conservation and use of the ocean and its resources. They must contribute to the growth of a Blue Economy.
Seychelles’ economy is heavily centered on tourism and fishing – a Blue Economy advances growth within and beyond these pillars to adopt a resilient way of thinking to lead on ocean issues, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, and sustainable development. We are constantly aware of the vulnerabilities our people and economy are exposed to as a direct result of climate change, and because our resources are so limited, we have to stretch them in unique ways.
Seychelles will showcase its debt for adaptation swap as a model of innovative financing for sustainable development that can be replicated by other SIDS and indebted countries.
Seychelles recently secured a landmark finance deal that contributes significantly to advancing our Blue Economy. The deal – a debt-for-adaptation swap – serves multiple purposes by improving the economic health of Seychelles through reducing its national debt obligations, and supporting marine conservation and climate adaptation efforts and sustainable use of our ocean resources.
The debt swap centers on an initial debt buyback agreement worth USD $30 million with the Paris Club group of creditors and South Africa. In exchange for this, Seychelles is investing in environmental conservation and climate change adaptation measures including increasing marine protected areas from less than 1% to 30% of our territorial waters. To prepare for this expansion of our protected areas, Seychelles has additionally been one of the first countries to undertake marine spatial planning across its entire Exclusive Economic Zone.
This deal was achieved through Seychelles’ leadership in the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), co-chaired by my President, James Michel, alongside the President of Palau and Prime Minister of Grenada. Through GLISPA, Seychelles developed a strong relationship with The Nature Conservancy who have been instrumental in helping the debt swap come to fruition alongside early supporters including the Waitt Foundation and Oceans 5. Seychelles will showcase its debt for adaptation swap at COP21, the Paris climate change conference in December 2015, as a model of innovative financing for sustainable development that can be replicated by other SIDS and indebted countries.
As global citizens, we need to continue to inspire and foster genuine and durable partnerships in resilient communities. Over the past decade, Seychelles has been continually inspired by the network of island leaders and their supporters that are striving to take the action necessary to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for our countries and the planet through GLISPA. During a GLISPA event at the United Nations’ Third International Conference for Small Island Developing States in Samoa last year, I was honoured to see Hawai’i join us as an island to declare the unprecedented Aloha+ Challenge.
Island leaders need support globally to create more distributed and resilient infrastructure systems.
The Aloha+ Challenge, inspired by similar commitments in Micronesia and the Caribbean, establishes six statewide targets, inclusive of 70% clean energy, a doubling of local food production, waste reduction programs, natural resource management, and further integration of a green workforce in smart, sustainable communities, to be achieved by 2030. This commitment has positioned Hawai’i internationally as a pioneer of green growth, generating new economic opportunities and support from key public and private partners.
Islands are at the forefront of climate change. We are feeling the effects of sea-level rise and coastal erosion, warming ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, chronic drought and severe weather events. The escalation of these impacts due to climate change will have catastrophic implications. We are also facing rapid growth of urban centers, pressure on limited land and water resources, and dramatic biodiversity loss. The 600 million people living on islands have never before been so at risk.
Responding to these threats, a number of island leaders, such as Seychelles and Hawaii, have made visionary commitments to action to build resilient and sustainable island communities using the platform provided through the Global Island Partnership. GLISPA is also dedicated to identifying island bright spots; initiatives that work, where increased investment in support of leadership commitments have the potential to scale up solutions to the threats islands face.
Islands…are the perfect laboratory to test innovative and sustainable market-based solutions that can be scaled and replicated to address global challenges.
It has become increasingly clear that island responses on their own will not be enough. Island leaders need support globally to create more distributed and resilient infrastructure systems to reduce risk, provide reliable services, and help vulnerable communities adapt. Public resources alone are insufficient and new partnerships are needed to mobilise large-scale investment in sustainable development initiatives at the water-energy-food nexus on islands.
Islands are worth investing in. They are the perfect laboratory to test innovative and sustainable market-based solutions that can be scaled and replicated to address global challenges.
2015 offers a unique opportunity to reframe risk and resilience by supporting island leaders and private sector partners to catalyse innovative investments in integrated infrastructure through the Island Resilience Initiative. In collaboration with GLISPA, public and private sector, philanthropic, and non-governmental partners, the Island Resilience Initiative uses a prize challenge and sourcing model to identify a set of issue areas on five islands and support them to leverage public resources to catalyse investment in resilient infrastructure.
We must act with a sense of urgency, as our very survival depends on our willingness to boldly innovate and envision a sustainable future. It is within our own equanimity that we can ensure the longevity of our people, our culture, our ecosystems.
I challenge you to join us in supporting the Island Resilience Initiative through GLISPA.