Taking the fight to the frontline: Island states unite to end pollution

Twenty-seven Small Island Developing States have come together in a bid to manage and eliminate toxic chemicals and waste in some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems under a new initiative announced today in Washington DC.

Backed by $61 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), with partner co-financing of over $389 million, the Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in Small Island Developing States program – or ‘ISLANDS’ – will support island states across the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean to manage the growing impacts of chemicals and wastes on their unique environments.

While their small size, relative isolation and unique biodiversity place many SIDS amongst the world’s most sought-after tourist destinations – with the sector representing more than 30 per cent of SIDS’ total exports – they are also especially vulnerable to environmental threats.

In the Caribbean for example, the approximately 75 M nights the island is visited by tourists per year are estimated to generate as much as 166 MT/year of waste. Meanwhile, economic development and growing populations are squeezing many islands’ natural resources, straining waste management infrastructure and putting pressure on the fragile ecosystems – like beaches, reefs and other coastal resources – that the islands rely on to survive.

Supported by UN Environment, the United Nations Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank, the ISLANDS program will work to eliminate 23,236 T of toxic chemicals, including 38 T of mercury and 619 T of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), as well as avoiding the release of over 185,000 T of marine litter.