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Small Islands, Large Impact: Sustainability Lessons From 3 Islands

Sustainability Lessons From 3 Islands

Whether they’re located within the Arctic circle or tropical waters, islands are among the most vulnerable places to climate change. Especially given that islands contribute to a fraction of the global greenhouse gas emissions, the climate change risks they’re facing are disproportional.

Nevertheless, many small islands are also at the forefront of measures for sustainable development and fighting climate change — and they might inspire the rest of the world to do so.

On the other hand, islands are unique systems where small changes can yield full and significant results in a relatively short time, which makes them the ultimate solution labs for climate change.

Indeed, to successfully complete the ecological transition, it’s imperative to start small, create a workable and scalable model, and then replicate it on a large scale. Hence, islands can be the best breeding grounds to grow the green revolution.

Hereafter are three successful and ongoing examples from islands in very different corners of the world yet tackling the same problem: The need for sustainable and renewable energy to help the island communities thrive, and to invite others to follow the course.

Bornholm and Samsø, Denmark: Most Sustainable Islands of the EU

In 2020, the Baltic islands of Bornholm and Samsø were awarded the accolade of the “most sustainable islands of the EU”. It was thanks to their outstanding commitment to innovation in sustainability for decades.

Samsø, in particular, was named Denmark’s official “Renewable Energy Island” in 1997. The islands are now entirely self-sufficient, powered by wind turbines.

However, these positive changes are not to be witnessed by the small number of the islands’ residents: In 2007, Samsø opened an Energy Academy, a cutting-edge green education center. The Energy Academy also operates as a conference center. It hosts 5,000 scientists, politicians, journalists, and countless students annually to inspire the public and future generations.

Nowadays, Bornholm and Samsø are Denmark’s most visited islands and also its most beloved.

Puerto Rico: Where the Sun Saves Lives

In 2017, Hurricane Maria, which was one of the most destructive Atlantic storms recorded, devastated Puerto Rico. Over three million citizens were left without electricity for weeks, making access to vital healthcare services impossible.

Nevertheless, as the Caribbean island nation has been recovering from this disaster, Solar Saves Lives, an initiative to install solar and battery storage at health clinics, community centers, and other critical locations in Puerto Rico, helped to meet the energy needs of the country with the Caribbean sun.

Furthermore, in 2019, the Puerto Rican government passed a clean energy law that mandates all of the island’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2050.

Five years after the disaster, a clean and reliable energy supply is more significant than ever, making Puerto Rico safer and more resilient against future threats.

Seychelles: Where the Sun Brightens Education

Seychelles has a very high oil dependency: 90 percent of the country’s energy needs are met by this imported fossil fuel, which comes at a hefty cost, both environmentally and financially.

Nevertheless, the East African archipelagic nation has an immense potential to replace the oil-generated electricity with a sun-powered one — a transformation that has already started, particularly in the sphere of education.

Seychelles Energy Commission, a government initiative, now provides solar panels to all public schools located on the three main islands of Seychelles, namely Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue.

This strategy is set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21.4 percent by 2025 in Seychelles, and it’s spreading to tourism, too.

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