World Government Summit 2023 |15 February 2023
President Ramkalawan calls on
world to unite to maintain a
liveable planet and save Sids
By Laura Pillay
President Wavel Ramkalawan has called on the world to unite and to “work harder and faster to maintain a liveable planet”, to address the climate crisis and save small island developing states (Sids) from the impacts.
President Ramkalawan made the plea in his keynote address during the second day of the World Government Summit yesterday, taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The head of state highlighted the plight of Sids as vulnerable states who are grappling with sea level rise among other climate change impacts, calling out to other leaders, global experts and decision makers from around the globe to act with urgency to “overcome the challenges that we face through collective action, global solidarity, and with political will”.
“Environmentally, we bear little responsibility for the global concentration of greenhouse gasses, yet, we are disproportionately vulnerable to climate induced shocks and intensifying ecological transitions, making us the most vulnerable societies to climate change. It should be noted that Sids have been at the forefront of global discussions on strong global climate mitigation efforts, minimising the risks from climate change, and on mechanisms to address loss and damage. But we cannot do it alone.
“Dealing with the impacts of climate change is complex and multi-faceted, and can only be approached holistically, hence why international cooperation is crucial if we want to help small island nations address the impact of climate change,” President Ramkalawan stated.
In addition to financial aid, Sids are also in need of technological and capacity-building support to mitigate and adapt, necessitating strengthened regional and international cooperation, triangular cooperation and genuine, durable, and equitable partnerships, he said.
The President noted that Seychelles fully supports the adoption and implementation of a multi-dimensional vulnerability index (MVI), as a more equitable measure of vulnerability for Sids, and a coherent, viable approach and strategy. A MVI could demonstrate the fragility of Sids’ economies and environments, and serve as a means for unlocking concessionary financing and grants towards resilient development, climate change adaptation, disaster-risk reduction, recovery and rehabilitation considerations, and environmental sustainability.
“As complex causes for vulnerability will persist, the need and the call for the development of indices that adequately capture the particular vulnerability of Sids like Seychelles is most important. It will help to guide programmatic support, viable debt service payment and financing for sustainable development,” he added.
Of the importance of a whole government approach towards building resilience and adaptation to climate change, President Ramkalawan said it is imperative that national and local authorities responsible for critical infrastructure and regulating finance and investments work hand in hand with authorities responsible for climate change and environmental issues. Information flow and planning between these entities and other parts of government are key for minimising risks and making informed decisions. Additionally, climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction, recovery and rehabilitation considerations and environmental sustainability needs and concerns must be integrated into public as well as private medium to long-term plans, he said.
In Seychelles, similarly to numerous other Sids, the majority of the 100,000 population live on land that is less than five metres above sea level, or along coasts where the threats of sea-level rise, storm surges and coastal destruction pose existential risks.
“Danger is staring us in the eye daily. Sea-level rise poses a significant threat to small island communities and eco-systems. Ninety-five percent of Seychelles’ critical infrastructure is located on the coast, and is exposed to impacts of sea level rise, such as coastal erosion, salinisation of coastal aquifers affecting ground and surface water, impeded drainage and loss of coastal and marine ecosystems,” President Ramkalawan said.
Sea level rise has also resulted in contraction of habitats, shifts in the geographical location of coastal species, and loss of biodiversity. As such, the risk of coralline islands sinking and other granitic islands becoming uninhabitable is a real threat and a great concern to Seychelles.
As stated by the head of state, coastal erosion is already being experienced across the country, and the upward trend in the sea level has gradually become more pronounced.
“Seychelles, like other Sids, is building a vision for a climate-resilient future that puts adaptation and loss and damage at the centre of its decision-making, while taking immediate actions now to protect the people, the economy and the environment,” the President went on to state.
In 2018, Seychelles launched the world’s first Sovereign Blue Bonds, mobilising US $15 million for blue economy projects that support sustainable marine and fisheries projects. Proceeds from the bond support numerous projects including the expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs) and improved fisheries governance.
In March 2020, Seychelles secured the first-ever climate adaptation debt restructuring, forgiving part of the country’s foreign debt in exchange for designating 32 percent of its ocean territory as MPAs.
The curtains are set to close on the World Government Summit 2023 today.
The summit aims to be a platform through which to share and contribute to the development of tools, policies, and models that are essential in shaping future governments.
In concluding his address, President Ramkalawan seized the opportunity to wish the UAE and leaders the best for COP 28, in saying “we are counting on COP 28 to give us this bright light”.