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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

H.E. Amb. Lois Young, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Belize to the United Nations

Remarks by H.E. Lois Young, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Belize to the
United Nations
Event: UN DESA Webinar Series: Sustainable Transport and COVID-19: Response and Recovery
Topic: Impact of COVID-19 on countries in special situations and forward-looking transport
Date/Time: June 26, 2020, 8:30 a.m. EDT
Good Morning Excellencies, Colleagues. Thank you Naiara (facilitator) for the introduction; and I
would like to express my gratitude to UN DESA for the invitation to participate in this webinar
series, and speak to how (1) SIDS have been impacted by COVID-19, particularly in the transport
sector, and (2) some SIDS proposed solutions to sustainable transport.
I assure you that I will keep my intervention brief and within the allotted time.
As a precursor to this discussion, the AOSIS Chair and the Government of Belize hosted the
Placencia Ambition Forum in April of this year, which brought together SIDS and major climate
actors to discuss and highlight areas where further work is needed to support raising ambition.
One of the key areas discussed at length was the transport sector of SIDS, and the immediate
impacts to Island economies as a result.
Vulnerability of Transport Sector in SIDS
Transportation networks are the physical corridors that enable SIDS to sustain their economies,
and maintain social cohesion. The transport sector plays a central role in SIDS’s vulnerability. In
land transport, major transport infrastructure makes up a large share of public assets; and, when
small nations face immense infrastructural damage due to floods, or storms on a periodic basis,
governments are faced to pick up the pieces and take quick measures to restore mobility, often
with limited means to “climate proof” major road networks.
Further to land transport, sustainable maritime transport is also uniquely important for SIDS in
order to to maintain connectivity among their scattered islands and to move goods and people
between them. Needless to say, due to our mainly undiversified economies, we are heavily
reliant on international trade for energy products and basic consumer needs. This is essential
infrastructure that must be made resilient.
In SIDS particularly, adapting these highly vulnerable transport networks is often ignored, relative
to mitigative transport initiatives which focusses on a longer time scale. There needs to be an
equal weighting to both mitigation and adaptation if we are to be better prepared for climaterelated
system disruption than we were for COVID-19.
Key Examples of where SIDS have set goals in Sustainable Transport
Prior to COVID-19, many SIDS had strong national targets, policies, and projects to integrate
sustainable transport into their national plans. For example:
 Barbados --commits to 100% renewable energy and being a carbon neutral island by
2030. One short term goal to convert the Government fleet to electric vehicles
 Nauru has enhanced both their port accessibility, economic stability, and climate
resilience through developing its fully climate resilient port
 Cabo Verde – Electric Mobility Policy – All vehicles to be electric by 2050, 54% by 2030.
Currently at 17%.
 Singapore – Sustainable Land Transport System – Internal combustion engine vehicles
to be completely phased out by 2040. Walk Cycle Ride (WCR) so that anywhere in the
city can be reached within 40 mins and in towns within 20 mins.
 Maldives - High Speed Public Ferry Network for inter-island transport utilising fuel
efficient standardised hybrid boats and with major co-benefits to accelerate social and
economic growth and achieve other UN SDGs.
SIDS Examples of Major Transport Challenges brought by COVID-19
Despite SIDS taking have had included sustainable transport initiatives into their national plans
and policies, the onset of COVID-19 has, for many, unraveled a plethora of unforeseen impacts
to their economies, and existing plans and work under way.
1. Diversion of Development Funds to COVID-19 Relief
Maldives- COVID-19 has delayed the implementation of the High-Speed Public Ferry Network
in the Maldives as funds had to be diverted from the project for emergency reasons. This is
typical of the difficult balancing positions SIDS increasingly find themselves in particularly as
the impacts of climate change will continually worsen in the short term.
2. Crumbling Economies and Crushing Debt
The sudden, deep and likely prolonged downturn in the travel and tourism sector, has
brought immense financial insecurity to various SIDS whose main economic sector is Tourism.
On average, the tourism sector accounts for almost 30% of SIDS economies.
As a result, SIDS have seen a steep shortage of foreign exchange, which it requires to pay off
its debt and pay for imports.
(Most heavily impacted by tourism loss include the Maldives, Seychelles, St. Kitts and Nevis,
Most heavily impacted by debt include Seychelles, Bahamas, Jamaica)
3. Disrupted Supply Chains and Emergency Response
This April, just about a month into COVID-19 response, Tropical Cyclone Harold hit four Pacific
Island nations---the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga leaving behind destruction in
its wake.
The humanitarian response to these nations were hugely delayed due to added Covid-19
quarantine restrictions for health workers and those with critical supplies to move between
islands, or arriving on limited commercial flights.
Other concerns for food security were also weighed on these countries. For Vanuatu and Fiji,
this meant strains on local food supply due to massive agricultural loss, compounded by
strained access to imports of food supplies due to strict import protocols as a result of the
pandemic. Furthermore, what food aid was received, was met with difficulty due to roads
being washed away.
SIDS specific Solutions to Sustainable Transport
Notwithstanding the immense financial burden that COVID-19 has brought upon SIDS, there are
significant opportunities for increased mitigation action for both land and maritime transport.
The small size of our markets has hampered the deployment of low-carbon technologies. We
need to consider approaches that can build economies of scale. Increasing the uptake of both
sustainable and resilient transport will require targeted policy work and capacity building to
develop plans that are appropriate for the SIDS and for each small island state. Each SIDS has
varying geographies and infrastructure are very different.
1. Island Specific Transport Solutions
The solutions to implement sustainable transport systems has to be unique to island and cultural
preferences, and most importantly convenient. For example, while various Caribbean islands
have shown high potential for electric mobility in their small road networks, many Pacific Islands
may choose to focus their efforts on inter-island connectivity using more renewable fuel sources.
2. Holistic approach towards Transport Policy
Similarly, in the context of SIDS, maritime and aviation sectors are hugely important but often
neglected in NDC representation relative to land transportation. Also, logistics, and the
movement of cargo must be considered, not just the movement of people. There needs to be a
holistic approach in policy formulation.
3. Means to Scale up existing Sustainable Transport Efforts
There does not have to be a conflict between emission reduction and economic development.
SIDS already have some positive examples of sustainable transport projects so far, but require
innovative methods to test and then scale up actions that will enable long term change.
4. Synergistic Approach to Transport Financing
Finally, there is just not enough funding from international sources for SIDS mitigation and
adaption actions in the transport sector. With this in mind, we must look for the opportunities
for synergy. Because transport is so integral to all aspects of everyday life and the functioning of
societies, the co-benefits that transport reform delivers need to be better defined and leveraged
in order to access the considerable funding required to pursue these efforts.
We need to make a strong argument for the benefits that go beyond GHG emissions, including
how transport projects can increase energy security, resilience, decrease cost to government and
society and increase social cohesion.
Thank you.