SIDS are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. But they are also at the forefront of climate solutions. A number have made bold commitments to scale up their NDCs, and some are now among the first countries in the world to officially do so, outlining comprehensive plans and strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, transforming energy and improving adaption to climate shifts.

Their high ambitions and perceptions of urgency are mirrored in results from SIDS collected in UNDP’s People’s Climate Vote – the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. The aim of the survey was to open a dialogue between the public and policymakers by providing the latter with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond. The highest level of support for recognizing climate change as a global emergency was found among people in SIDS; 74 percent believe that climate change is a global emergency compared to an average of 64 percent across all 50 countries surveyed.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has put forward the SIDS Ambition Package, which outlines far-reaching priorities to tackle climate change. It highlights collective determination to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and includes cross-cutting actions and partnerships defined by and focused on SIDS. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, AOSIS held the Placencia Ambition Forum, hosted by the Government of Belize as the chair of AOSIS, and bringing together major actors in the climate change negotiations focusing on increasing ambition in compliance with the Paris Agreement. The outcome is the Declaration on the Placencia Ambition Forum, urging ambitious recovery efforts aimed at transformation in line with climate goals. This included a call for renewed commitments to finance given SIDS’ great losses from climate, weather and water-related hazards, which collectively total $153 billion since 1970.

UNDP’s vision is to support SIDS to move to a green recovery and decarbonized, climate-resilient societies. Work is firmly rooted in national development and climate policy priorities, under the overarching objective of meeting the SDGs. Three entry points comprise energy transformation, resilience and adaptation, and nature-based solutions, with a cross-cutting emphasis on accessing finance. Underpinning these actions in key thematic areas, UNDP and its partners are supporting 28 SIDS to enhance their NDCs and take to the global stage as effective champions of audacious climate action as part of its Climate Promise. Capitalizing on commitments made under the Climate Promise will enable green and inclusive recovery from COVID-19 in SIDS.


Although SIDS are low-emitting countries, many view enhancing NDCs as a key development opportunity. Countries are putting in place building blocks such as monitoring and costing systems. Broader societal engagement helps align NDCs with existing policies and plans and strengthen targets. Greater ambition has been most evident in energy, followed by infrastructure, transport and agriculture. There is strong emphasis on gender, youth, the SDGs and green recovery.

Within the Climate Promise, UNDP is directing $3 million to support SIDS to prepare workplans that are ambitious and comprehensive. Many Pacific SIDS are committed to faster progress in cutting emissions, for example. The Cook Islands is strengthening NDC emissions targets and adding new sectors, including transport, agriculture and land use, aiming for a zero emissions target by 2030-2040. Niue plans to increase renewable energy to 80 percent of total energy use by 2020, while taking more adaptation action to protect its coastlines and marine areas. Samoa intends to update its emissions abatement strategy and to include targets in key sectors, such as transport, maritime, tourism, agriculture and fisheries, forestry and marine.

In the Caribbean, with UNDP support, Belize aspires to revise its NDC so that it is more innovative, ambitious and accurate in its scope, proposed actions, costs, accounting of emissions and transparency mechanisms. Grenada plans a gender-responsive NDC revision that adds the refrigeration and air conditioning industries, and updates targets on energy, forestry and transport.

In the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Seas (AIS) region, UNDP has helped Seychelles begin strengthening adaptation through blue economy objectives. The Maldives is completing scientific modelling to determine enhanced mitigation targets.


With high dependence on imported fossil fuels, SIDS are vulnerable to supply disruptions and price volatility. A forward-looking COVID-19 recovery and beyond will advance energy transition through investments in sustainable energy that build resilience and propel a greener economy.

Sustainable energy plays a double role in both response and recovery. Having a stable, reliable and affordable electricity supply, and related energy services such as cooling and clean cooking, improves the quality, accessibility and reliability of health services, the first line of action in the global health crisis. Energy allows access to online and mobile technologies critical to mitigating the negative effects of social distancing on people’s well-being, livelihoods and the economy, enabling remote work and education, telemedicine, and digital financial and e-commerce transactions.

UNDP works with SIDS to increase renewable energy generation and energy efficiency, including through developing institutions and regulations to guide and speed the transition. UNDP policy advice has helped devise the Regional Framework on Energy Security in the Pacific as well as national energy road maps and policies. UNDP also mobilizes resources for specific renewable energy and energy efficiency policies and demonstration projects to meet national electrification targets.

In Barbados, UNDP has backed government efforts to reduce emissions from fossil fuel-based power generation by demonstrating renewable energy resources. New technologies are coming online related to battery storage, dispatchable bioenergy (notably biodigesters), and information systems for supervising and monitoring decentralized grids.

Through UNDP, a number of SIDS connect to cost-effective technologies that extend renewable energy solutions even to remote communities, a critical element of inclusive growth. In Guyana, UNDP is installing solar systems in 180 remote communities to power information and communications technology (ICT) hubs that provide government services. Construction of 48 micro hydroelectric plants benefits nearly 20,000 people in the Dominican Republic. UNDP has helped Timor-Leste introduce cleaner cooking stoves for almost 20 percent of households and extend solar-powered water pumps and high-performing lighting to about 3,000 households in isolated communities. With one of the lowest electrification rates and highest electricity service costs in Africa, Guinea-Bissau is drawing on UNDP support and Global Environment Fund (GEF) financing to develop solar mini-grid systems.


The Climate Investment Platform helps solve climate finance gaps by catalysing investment in clean energy, channelling it where it is needed most and maximizing the impacts. Announced in September 2019 by UNDP, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) in coordination with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the platform offers a powerful tool for SIDS to overcome financing gaps to accelerate energy transitions.

Comoros, São Tomé and Príncipe and Vanuatu are among an initial group of SIDS accessing the platform. Financing for the ‘Sustainable Transformational Energy Platform and Upscaling Partnerships Project’ in São Tomé and Príncipe has boosted reliable and affordable energy for health and education services as well as tourism, which is important to the economy.


Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction share a common goal: lowering vulnerability and building resilience. As the frequency and intensity of weather and climate-related hazards increase, integrating adaptation and risk reduction is ever more important. UNDP supports SIDS to harmonize the two.

Since 2008, UNDP climate adaptation projects in SIDS have raised the resilience of more than 1.3 million people, and protected 1.1 million hectares of land, 141,400 hectares of marine areas and 7,800 kilometers of coastline. Nearly 132,000 people have reaped benefits from more resilient agricultural practices. Over 124,000 gained access to clean drinking water.


Many Pacific countries have made strong commitments to integrate adaptation and resilience into policies, plans and budgets. But realizing these commitments can be challenging. Overcoming the barriers is the task of the Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific (Gov4Res) project.

The initiative works with ministries of finance and planning, supporting measures such new institutional mechanisms dedicated to resilience. One example is the new Resilient Development and Financing Division in Tonga. Related efforts include helping governments create staff functions focused on risk-informed development, use strategic diagnostic tools, and link data and expertise on climate change, disaster and gender to inform decision-making.

The Pacific region is taking a global lead in tackling climate and disaster intersections through the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (2017-2030). As part of a technical working group with partner organizations, UNDP supported the development of this first-of-its-kind framework, aimed at reducing the region’s exposure to climate and disaster risk, supporting low carbon development, and improving disaster response and reconstruction. It has become a common reference point for governments, civil society, communities, the private sector, regional organizations and development partners.

In Mauritius, UNDP has assisted in establishing a state-of-the-art early warning system for surge forecasts. It has helped construct shelters, coastal reprofiling works, artificial reefs and a coastal wall, and supported an updated Disaster Information Management System.

UNDP helped the Dominican Republic devise an index of vulnerability to climatic shocks that has guided the alignment of social protection policies with policies for climate adaptation and risk management. The index calculates the probability that a household will be vulnerable to a climatic phenomenon given certain socioeconomic and geographic characteristics. Similar efforts are underway in Bahamas, Belize and Haiti.

Through the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, UNDP pilot projects have brought together policymakers, experts and community representatives to pursue innovative policies that reduce the root causes of vulnerability, including in Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, and Suriname. In line with national climate strategies, the partnership backs the incubation of green, low-emissions, climate-resilient technologies by public entities as well as businesses and community groups. In Jamaica, the partnership has boosted community water storage capacity by 65,800 gallons and developed guttering and drip irrigation systems at 70 locations island wide. Over 90,000 people from 70 communities benefit from these measures.


UNDP works with SIDS in mobilizing funding for climate change adaptation through the GEF, GCF, Adaptation Fund and bilateral donors. It helps leverage co-financing from businesses, governments and United Nations organizations. Currently, UNDP is supporting 15 SIDS to implement 24 adaptation projects that secured $329 million from grants and leveraged an additional $544 million from co-financiers. Assistance for 9 SIDS is helping them to develop an additional 10 projects worth $141 million.

New finance supports coastal area management, water security, fisheries and agriculture, waste management, gender and resilience, food security and ecosystem-based adaptation, including coral restoration and artificial reef construction.

One area of focus is water resource management and water security. In the Maldives, a project with $23.6 million from GCF and $4.6 million from co-financiers aims to provide safe and reliable freshwater to 105,000 people, roughly 30 percent of the population. This includes developing water desalination facilities and improving rainwater collection infrastructure in combination with groundwater protection.

In Comoros, a project with $41.9 million from GCF and $18.8 million from co-financiers is introducing climate-resilient water supplies for 450,000 people, about half the population. Measures are underway to improve water monitoring, planning and management; design a water tariff system to ensure sustainability; and develop infrastructure.

In the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a project with 18.6 million from GCF and $6.1 million from co-financiers supports adaptation to more frequent and extreme droughts by upgrading rainwater harvesting systems, installing community storage systems, and protecting groundwater wells from storm surges and contamination.

In Solomon Islands, a project with $6.85 million from the Least Developed Countries Fund addresses climate-related water and hygiene challenges in six provinces. Sustainable financing, operation and maintenance plans, and better managed watersheds have provided 12,000 people with resilient water supplies.

In Samoa, a project with $57.7 million from GCF and $8 million from co-financiers is assisting the Government to reduce fallout from recurrent floods in the Vaisigano river catchment. Nearly 27,000 people will benefit from upgraded infrastructure, drainage and flood mitigation measures, and more effective planning to limit risks.

UNDP also helps secure finance for early warning systems and climate information, such as through the India-UN Partnership, where UNDP’s Pacific Office mobilized $1 million to support early warning systems for water resources. The project directly assists seven countries—Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tonga—as well as regional efforts to improve technical capacity related to hydrology and meteorology.

In Papua New Guinea, a $6 million Adaptation Fund-supported project has provided vulnerable communities with tools and capacities to make informed decisions about adapting to climate change hazards. Equipment generating critical weather and climate information now allows the National Weather Services to enhance coverage and disseminate climate and early warning information across the country. One result has been that nearly 270,000 people are more resilient to inland flooding.

In Cook Islands, a $4.9 million Adaptation Fund-supported project has helped to modernize the capture, analysis and distribution of climate information, setting up automated weather stations and accelerating the transition to the next generation of technology. The process has built on partnerships between the private sector (Bluesky, a telecom company), regional organizations (the New Zealand Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research and the Fiji Meteorological Service), and local and national governments.

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, funds from ECHO have strengthened disaster preparedness through more resilient early warning systems.

Funding for coastal resilience comprises an adaptation project in Tuvalu that drew in GCF funding of $36.01 million and $2.86 million from co-financiers, towards reducing vulnerability to coastal inundation and erosion on three islands. Protection of key infrastructure, including homes, schools, hospitals and other assets, involves reclamation and a combination of engineering and ecosystems-based measures augmenting the natural shoreline.

In Timor-Leste, a $7 million grant from the Least Developed Countries Fund and $31.6 million in co-financing from GIZ, the Government and the Korean International Cooperation Agency is strengthening the resilience of 31,000 people in coastal areas through nature-based coastal protection strategies. The project will help protect 1,000 hectares of mangroves and 5,000 kilometers of coastline, while increasing access to climate information and alternative livelihoods for 26,000 people.

In Cuba, Adaptation Fund investment has propelled an intensive water rehabilitation project that takes an ecosystems-based approach to mangrove restoration. It entails comprehensive reforestation, enhanced monitoring and control measures, and detailed vulnerability assessments of climate change fallout on communities and ecosystems.


Nature-based solutions offer vast potential in realizing SIDS ambitions for more resilient, sustainable societies. They can deliver at least a third of the carbon mitigation needed through 2030. SIDS can also use them to protect and restore land and ocean ecosystems and develop sustainable management practices that improve well-being and support biodiversity.

UNDP works with SIDS in incorporating more and better targets for nature-based solutions in their NDCs. UNDP supports 21 SIDS through ridge-to-reef initiatives and integrated coastal zone management projects. Nine SIDS in the Caribbean and three in AIS have begun using spatial data for mapping essential life support areas. UNDP has contributed to similar gains through the Pacific Ridge-to-Reef Programme.

In the Maldives, UNDP supported the first pilot for integrated local development planning, the LaamuInfo database tool, and developed a natural resources map for one atoll intended to shape policymaking and planning. The tool will allow island and atoll authorities to manage administrative data from different sectors such as land use, energy, agriculture and food security. The database facilitates analyses, ensures safe and secure storage of data, and renders data accessible to all. The LaamuInfo database supports evidence-based decision making by providing users with national statistical data collected and scientific studies conducted over the past 30 years.

UNDP and the GEF Protected Areas Network have help map forests for restoration in Mauritius, complementing similar efforts for wetlands. Planned mapping of freshwater biodiversity will provide a complete, current assessment of environmentally sensitive areas.

In the Dominican Republic, UNDP has assisted in developing data and geospatial maps required for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It is supporting the Ministry of Environment in preparing cartography to update the national information system. Suriname has used UNDP support to improve the National Forest Cover Monitoring System, which now includes spatial data on mangroves based on remote sensing and on-the-ground inventory. Near-real-time monitoring is available on Geoportal GONINI.

In the Pacific, UNDP assisted in mapping climate change impacts on tuna migration and in monitoring illegal fishing. Ongoing research is investigating models for analysis of climate effects that factor in variables in water temperatures.


The UNDP regional ridge-to-reef partnership with the Pacific Community uses spatial data to develop maps depicting resources, hot spots and habitats. In Vanuatu, for instance, national and local analyses applied globally available spatial data sets to identify coral reefs and forest areas. A next step was to develop maps defining priorities for management (national) and forecasting outcomes of existing management plans (local).

Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga are using spatial data for watershed analysis. Quantum GIS (geographic information system) models predict the impacts of existing land use over time. Such insights help identify critical watersheds for conservation, particularly those with a role in protecting terrestrial soil and freshwater resources, and downstream coastal and marine resources and habitats.

In Niue, UNDP is helping to map the entire island with LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, which provides detailed maps showing natural, agricultural and residential areas.

In Samoa, land-cover mapping used high resolution aerial photography and satellite imagery. Ground-truthing and field observations including GPS (global positioning system) positions helped verify or improve data by transferring and overlaying them onto satellite imagery.

UNDP’s integrated SIDS offer Rising Up for SIDS articulates a clear strategy to respond to their most pressing needs as well as bring forth innovative solutions to the complex developmental challenges they face for a better future for people and planet. UNDP's increased investment. This offer acts as a vehicle for recovery committing to enhancing current support in areas of climate action, blue economy and digital transformation, with innovative development finance as an enabling cross-cutting area.

'Actions on the Frontlines of the Climate Emergency' is part of the Rising Up For SIDS Progress Report. To access this report, click the link below:

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Photo Credits: UNDP, UNDP Climate, UNDP Mauritius, UNCDF in the Pacific, Small Grants Programme UNDP GEF, Ecosystems and Biodiversity UNDP, Ocean Image Bank, Unsplash, Getty Images

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