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COP28: Small Island Developing States Lead the Way through Transparent Climate Action

3 December 2023

At COP28, leaders and experts from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including Antigua and Barbuda, Fiji, the Maldives and Samoa, exemplified their leadership in climate action through enhanced transparency and evidence-based climate policies.

At a COP28 side-event on 1 December, leaders, policymakers and experts from SIDS showcased how enhanced transparency helps drive inspiring efforts in climate action. The representatives highlighted their countries’ progress in establishing transparency frameworks, which they were using to develop effective policies and regularly report on their climate action to stakeholders at home and to the international community. They appealed to the international community to follow their example and intensify their climate action, all the while extending much needed support to developing countries. 

SIDS countries face mounting climate change challenges, yet are demonstrating remarkable resilience and leadership. They are among the most vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate change, making global climate action not just a matter of urgency but a question of survival. Despite their negligible contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, they are actively advancing their mitigation efforts and leading the charge by championing transparency as a critical driver of climate action and sustainable development.

“As small island nations, it is extremely difficult to continue leading the charge when we are not afforded the same opportunities and access to resources. Nonetheless, we continue to be a leader in reporting on transparency and implementing mechanisms to collect the data needed to inform decision making and track our climate actions,” said Ena Dalso-Henry, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Wellness & the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda. 

Ena Dalso-Henry, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Wellness & the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda

COP28 brings together the leaders of the world to discuss and agree on the next steps for climate action on the global scale. This year’s COP also sees the first global stocktake, with countries collectively taking stock of where we stand with achieving the goals set forward with the Paris Agreement in 2015. Unfortunately, the global stocktake shows that the world is not on track. 

“The importance of transparency in Climate Action is not only to build trust in our joint commitment to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius increase above pre-industrial levels, it is also needed to ensure we are moving into the right direction through all policies and investments we are making. It is a fine-tuning act to make sure every dollar we spend takes us closer to a safe future,” said Ambassador Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr Pa’olelei Luteru, Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations, and Chair of The Alliance of Small Island States. 

Ambassador Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr Pa’olelei Luteru, Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations, and Chair of The Alliance of Small Island States

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Jorge Moreira da Silva applauded SIDS for decisively taking the lead in transparency, a fact that revealed their strong political will and unwavering commitment. This was consistent with the ambition that SIDS were demanding from the international community, including in terms of access to finance. Amidst adversity, SIDS were harnessing the power of data, and championing transparency as a critical driver of climate action and sustainable development. 

“Trust is a key element of the Paris Agreement. It is important to have the right tools to ensure mutual accountability. At the same time, information, data and evidence inform good climate action, not only greenhouse-gas related, but also on elements of a social dimension, such as employment, health and the economy,”  emphasized the Executive Director of UNOPS.

UNOPS Executive Director, Jorge Moreira da Silva

UNOPS manages the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT). As part of their work with ICAT, the three SIDS, Antigua and Barbuda, Fiji and the Maldives, received tailored support to build and enhance their national transparency frameworks. Representatives from the three countries shared their perspectives in a panel discussion on transparency for driving climate action across different sectors. The Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI) also participated in the discussion, sharing perspectives from the Caribbean MRV Hub.

Panel discussion with transparency experts from Antigua and Barbuda, Fiji, the Maldives and GHGMI

Antigua and Barbuda’s representative, Aaliyah Tuitt, Technical Data Officer at the Department of Environment, explained how the country is using transparency to enhance climate action in the transport sector, including to support developing an effective national transition to electric vehicles. This transition was expected to enable the country to progress with implementation of its NDC target to shift sales of new vehicles in the country to 100% electric by 2030. 

In the example shared by Fiji, Deepitika Chand, Climate Change Division in the Prime Minister’s office, showcased how the government leveraged transparency to measure the impact of agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions. Fiji was thus better equipped to understand its emission trends and support needs of the sector, leading to more focused policymaking interventions. Fiji’s national agricultural policies could rely on robust data to ensure food security, good production and the proliferation of resilient, gender-responsive food systems.

The representative from the Maldives, Ahmed Waheed, Director of the Climate Change Department of the Ministry of Environment & Energy, presented the country’s important efforts in strengthening the capacity of national institutions in data management, collection and dissemination. Significant progress had been made in establishing a measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) framework for the waste sector. To ensure a robust and continuous national MRV system, more resources now needed to be allocated to capacity building.

The GHGMI representative, Molly White, Senior Director, emphasized the need to integrate sectoral planning into economy-wide climate target setting. This would allow countries to understand the interactions between the different sectors, as well as the co-benefits and cross-sectoral implications. The Caribbean Cooperative MRV Hub supported member countries to carry out proper data collection and use a modeling tool that could facilitate sectoral and economy-wide impact assessments, responding to a collective challenge and priority.

“SIDS are taking a real leadership role and are ahead of many other countries in implementing transparency,” highlighted ICAT Director Henning Wuester in his closing remarks. He praised their approach of using transparency to assess impacts of sectoral climate policies and measures both from an emissions perspective and for their contributions to sustainable development. 

ICAT Director, Henning Wuester

The COP28 side-event “Enhanced Transparency for Small Island Developing States” was co-organized by the government of Antigua and Barbuda, GHGMI and ICAT.