The concept of sustainability has garnered an increasing amount of focus over the past few years, especially in light of the continuing pandemic. Stakeholders in the environmental arena, including governments, members of the public and private sector, civil society, and academia, are all increasingly recognizing the need to adopt sustainable practices as a way to build resilience in island communities. Here are the top 5 trends which we at Island Innovation think will help to overcome the climatic, environmental, social and economic challenges that islands face, and which will help to nurture a sense of collective purpose.
1. Sustainable Finance
2. Climate Positivity
3. Ocean Sustainability
4. Innovation in Nature-Based Solutions
5. The circular economy
1. Sustainable Finance
According to sustainablefitch.com, the financial world is sitting up and taking notice of the need to focus on creating innovative and relevant financial instruments to more adequately address issues related to Economic and Social Governance (ESG). Sustainable finance refers to any form of financial service integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into the business or investment decisions for the lasting benefit of both clients and society at large. Two of the financial instruments that will emerge more prominently in 2022 are impact investing and climate finance.
Impact investing is characterized by four main elements, namely:
INTENTIONALITY – An investor’s intention to have a positive social or environmental impact through investments is an essential aspect of impact investing.
INVESTMENT WITH RETURN EXPECTATIONS – Impact investments are expected to generate a financial return on capital or, at minimum, a return of capital.
RANGE OF RETURN EXPECTATIONS AND ASSET CLASSES – Impact investments target financial returns that range from below market (sometimes called concessionary) to risk-adjusted market rate, and can be made across a variety of asset classes, some of which include cash equivalents, fixed income, venture capital, and private equity.
IMPACT MEASUREMENT – A fundamental component of impact investing is the commitment of the investor to measure and report the social and environmental performance and progress of underlying investments. This has the added benefit of ensuring transparency and accountability while informing the practice of impact investing and building the field.
A complementary aspect of sustainable finance is Climate finance, a term which refers to local, national or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change. For island territories in particular, climate finance is regarded as playing a crucial role in both adaptation and mitigation. When it comes to adaptation, significant financial resources are needed to adapt to the adverse effects and reduce the impacts of a changing climate. Climate finance also is needed for mitigation, because large-scale investments are required to significantly reduce emissions.
Last year, at COP26, leaders of island nations such as Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, and Tuvalu called on developed nations to facilitate creative financial mechanisms that would specifically address loss and damage caused by the devastating effects of climate change. Such mechanisms will have the added benefit of contributing to the sense of empowerment for the inhabitants of islands around the world, who are on the front lines of the battlefield of climate change.
The upcoming Island Finance Forum, organised by Island Innovation will be held on April 25th to 29th, and will feature sessions that explore the many aspects of sustainable finance and its role in the sustainable development of islands.
2. Climate Positivity
As the name implies, climate positivity refers to a more positive, holistic and regenerative approach to combating climate change, while not diminishing the seriousness of the situation. This positivity will balance the negative and victimized stereotypes that tend to plague island territories when the topic of climate change is explored, and seeks to establish a new framework of Earth-conscious living that encourages us to not only neutralize carbon emissions, but to positively create environmental benefits. In 2022, consumers, especially those who inhabit islands across the globe, should choose to support brands and services with sustainable practices. It is even more important to be proactive and decide to build our connection with the natural world. According to the United Nations, industrial animal agriculture is responsible for numerous negative impacts on the climate. Therefore, island territories can also nurture climate positivity by focusing on regenerative, sustainable agricultural practices that boost food security.
Focusing on more affordable energy is another way to ensure that there is climate positive action. Indeed, it has been established that renewables increasingly undercut the existing operational costs of utilizing fossil fuels, therefore, more economic renewables can provide developed and developing island territories a strong business case to “power past coal in pursuit of a net-zero economy” in 2022 and beyond.
3. Ocean sustainability
This is a crucial trend for island nations, as the “Blue Economy” is an emerging economic paradigm that focuses on creating better stewardship of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources, with the primary goal of keeping global heating within 1.5°C. The ocean plays a major role in the social, economic and cultural identities of island inhabitants, so it is critical that it is protected and regenerated. The trend of “seawilding” applies the concept of land-based ‘rewilding’ (conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas) to our oceans. One example of this is the process of rewilding the seabed, which creates a wonderful opportunity for carbon sequestration, as seagrass sequesters carbon 35 times faster than trees, while also reducing the effects of storm surges. Here we see the doubly-advantageous effects of mitigation and adaptation at work, a definite blessing for island economies.
Plastic pollution must be addressed as a matter of urgency in 2022, as current estimates indicate that At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic debris is now the most abundant type of litter in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Plastic is also being found on the shorelines of every continent, and there is more plastic waste found near popular tourist destinations and densely populated areas. For island territories that are seeking to bounce back from the decimation of the pandemic, it is even more important to be aware of the plastic’s negative impact on marine ecosystems, food and human health, tourism, and the climate. A vital trend in 2022 will be to focus on the solutions to tackle the problem of marine plastic pollution, especially solutions which can be scaled and customised to be compatible with the infrastructural realities of islands. An example of such a solution is the provision of more funding for research and innovation. Also, multiple stakeholders in island communities can collaborate to explore effective legislative and funding frameworks that facilitate improved waste management, and a reduction in the use of plastic packaging. Another economically viable solution is to promote circular economic practices, itself a trend which will be discussed later in this blog.
4. Innovation in nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions are emerging as some of the most sustainable ways for islands to deal with the climate crisis. These solutions have become a trend which focuses on using biodiversity and the natural functions of healthy ecosystems to deal with some of the most pressing challenges caused by climate change, while providing numerous economic and social benefits.
An excellent example of this has been created by an NGO called Rumah Yapeka an Indonesian conservation and community development organization. It is currently developing plans to protect, conserve, and regenerate seagrass beds by involving members of the community in various activities. The integration of modern technology (the use of drones to monitor the seagrass beds) into this process has proven to be a positive innovative step, as has the support given to locals to start sustainable businesses and ecotourism companies. One of these businesses focuses on growing “spirulina”, blue-green algae which is rich in nutrients. The NGO hopes that these positive steps will help to encourage local residents to play a key role in the preservation of seagrass ecosystems
Continued efforts to use sustainable farming methods to adapt to climate change is another nature-based solution trend that will grow in 2022. These methods include reducing tillage, expanding crop rotations, planting cover crops and reintegrating livestock into crop production systems. These measures, which can be implemented seamlessly into the agriculture infrastructure of islands all over the world, have proven to reduce agriculture’s own footprint as well as capture the excess carbon generated by other industries. An added benefit is that this captured carbon is then converted into plant material and/or soil organic matter, improving soil health and eventually leading to an increase in island territories’ ability to produce food on the land in the future, thus enhancing self-sufficiency by decreasing the need to import as much food.
5. The Circular Economy
Perhaps one of the most significant trends of 2022 is the evolution of the circular economy. This trend is generally seen to have been rooted in the positive images of nature that emerged during the pandemic, and which prompted an increased awareness on the part of consumers about the healing powers of nature. They became more environmentally optimistic, and determined to protect this optimism by investing in eco-friendly products, as well as practicing recycling.
Recycling is an aspect of the circular economic model, that promotes a holistic approach to the re-use of materials. This is a fundamental step in the quest to protect the planet for future generations, as research has illustrated that, based on current consumption patterns, we will soon need three times the amount of natural resources, which means three more planets.
The circular economic model has also been referred to as “The Doughnut Economy”, an example of which is illustrated below:
According to the policies of the Government of Curacao, who have pioneered the world’s first “island doughnut”, the most well-known aspect of the circular economy is the fact that we must pay attention to the needs of everyone while remaining within the boundaries of a living planet. The doughnut consists of two concentric rings: an inner ring and an outer ring. The inner ring represents 12 social foundations, derived from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that are needed for a society to develop successfully. The outer ring represents the earth’s nine ecological boundaries.
Companies and products that promote the regeneration and conservation of nature are an important aspect of a circular economy.
The emergence of these sustainability trends and their relevance to islands all over the world show us the necessity of pursuing innovative solutions to challenges facing island communities. These trends are an important aspect of building the empowerment and resilience necessary to build a sustainable, strong, and vibrant future for all islanders!