Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Remarks at UNGA Event 2017 on ‘Small Island Developing States responding to climate impacts and planning for a sustainable future. Leadership, Innovation and Partnership’

Sep 18, 2017

UNDP has a large programme portfolio in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with over $300 million in projects supporting action on climate change and the environment. Credit: UNDP.

As prepared for delivery.

It is with pleasure that I welcome you to this event to discuss how Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are simultaneously tackling climate change and advancing their development priorities. 

I would like to start off by highlighting the impressive leadership this diverse community of SIDS have taken in pushing forward the international agenda on both development and climate change. The success of the 2014 SAMOA pathway has provided a clear articulation of the challenges and opportunities for SIDS. With a unified and strong voice, this pathway directly contributed to shaping international agreements that followed, from Agenda 2030, to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and finally the Paris Agreement. This leadership has helped to push the envelope, forcing all countries to rethink their objectives and raise their ambition.
This leadership stands even more impressive when recognizing the unique challenges of being a small island developing state today, particularly in the face of climate change. With 29.3% of the population of SIDS living on land that is less than five meters above sea level, the threat of sea level rise, storm surges, salt water intrusion, and coastal destruction pose critical risks to these countries. Hurricane Irma, sadly, was just the most recent reminder. Small populations with developing economies often dependent on imports and climate-sensitive industries, also have less financial and human resources to address these looming threats.

Nonetheless, the rich cultural diversity and history of ingenuity in the face of adversity, has translated these vulnerabilities into action.  

The publication being launched today, Rising Tides – Rising Capacity – provides a glimpse into SIDS’ impressive leadership and action on climate change. It showcases the results of the partnership between AOSIS and UNDP, with financing from the EU as anchor partner, and others, to support Alliance members’ efforts to increase global action on climate change. It also includes inspiring stories from AOSIS fellows, early-career professionals dedicated to national and international action on climate change and sustainable development.   

UNDP is proud to be a partner of this inspiring coalition of countries and to the Fiji Government as they take the historic step as the first SIDS country to be President of the UNFCCC COP in November. The negotiations this year are important to preserve the momentum of the Paris Agreement. Fiji is uniquely positioned to advocate for an effective COP 23 outcome that can scale up support for accelerated implementation of national targets and help raise awareness of the special circumstances of vulnerable countries.

The leadership shown at the international stage by SIDS is matched at the country level, where we have seen firsthand the commitment and action on climate change from the community to the national level.   UNDP has a large programme portfolio in SIDS, with over $300 million in projects supporting action on climate change and the environment, including two new GCF projects in the Maldives and Tuvalu.  

UNDP is also strengthening countries ability to prepare and respond to climate-related disasters. Most recently, we are supporting several SIDS in the Caribbean both during the immediate response to Hurricane Irma and in crucial early recovery activities.

To date, all SIDS have submitted their INDCs, and 35 have submitted their NDCs.  Many of these not only reflect ambitious commitments to implementing the Paris Agreement, but also highlight the links between climate change and development actions.  This is critical, not only for SIDS but for all member states. Based on our experience, UNDP recognizes NDCs as a tool to help ensure that development is truly sustainable in the face of climate impacts.  From building climate resilience to advancing sustainable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, NDC development and implementation can deliver multi-faceted change. By bringing together public and private sectors, and drawing on expertise and experience of all stakeholders, NDCs can deliver long-term development results for countries, especially those who are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts on development gains.  

UNDP stands with SIDS, and their partners, to sustain and build on the momentum of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030. Through their leadership, we can work together to meet our climate commitments and achieve our Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP Around the world