Removing administrative barriers, creating strong public-private partnerships and increasing awareness among residents about the need for new approaches are key steps to making islands sustainable in terms of self-sufficiency in energy and water, with zero vehicle emissions.
These were among the conclusions of the 5th international conference on island sustainability “Greening the Islands – The future of energy, water and mobility on islands in harmony with the biosphere,” held in Minorca in May. The prospect of a circular economy was repeatedly invoked during the two-day event as the best path towards the sustainable development of islands, embracing sectors as varied as energy and transport, water, waste, agriculture and tourism in a single vision.
The European Commission has a leading role in addressing the transition of islands toward a new and sustainable model and its Clean Energy for EU Islands initiative (Malta Political Declaration, May 2017) is a vital first step. In this context, the issue of energy is of particular importance.
“Islands have the possibility to play a role as innovation leadersfor integrating local renewable production, storage facilities and demand response,” Brendan Devlin, Advisor, DG Energy at the European Commission, told delegates.
To support its initiative, the European Commission is setting up a new EU Island Secretariat to work with island communities, gather and share best practices and provide technical assistance. Climate Alliance, a network of municipalities, districts and organisations working to combat climate change, was chosen this month to run the secretariat.
“It is essential for islands to manage their own scarce resources (both in terms of materials, waste and water) sustainably, to become even more resource and energy efficient, and to protect their environment and the surrounding marine environment,” said George Kremlis, Honorary Director – Directorate General for the Environment, European Commission – Active Senior responsible for circular economy in the islands.
To achieve their ambitions for sustainable development, islands need to think and work together on setting up scalable projects that can have an impact and mark a radical shift, above all in terms of energy, transport and water.
“In the last years, a high number of interesting projects were submitted and financed by the European Commission, but now islands are advised to co-ordinate and collaborate on innovative solutions and organise common, standardised deployment to make the solutions roll out to the market. The European Commission will support you all the way. Let’s do this now, together!” said Helmut Morsi – Adviser to the Director and Coordinator for Innovation, European Commission, DG MOVE-B.
As part of its mission to raise awareness about replicable best practices, the 4thedition of the Greening the Islands Awards saw recognition for three projects from around the world. They were selected by an international jury and voting by an online community of participants who joined the conference via Greeningtheislands.net. Awards went to
- In the ENERGY category: 100% Renewable St. Helena for theSouth Atlantic Ocean island that will become 100% self-sufficient in April 2022 through renewable energy production and storage and a targeted strategy to reduce demand
- In the WATER category: Chumbe Island Coral Park,a pioneering eco-lodge introducing environmentally friendly technology for water and sanitation in Tanzania
- In the MOBILITY category: Germany’s first LNG-Ferry MS “Helgoland”, now sailingfollowing a tender by the Municipality of Helgoland for a new ferry service contract using leading technology and operating on lowest-emission fuel possible.