This week and next, 7th to 16th of July, the United Nations holds the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (UN-HLPF 2020) via webinars and UN TV. The HLPF is the annual assessment of the progress made by the UN Member States on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs – agreed in 2015. The Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations in conjunction with Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future co-hosted a webinar Side Event on the 8th of July, a recording of which can be viewed via this link. The Side Event panel consisted of ambassadors and dignitaries from across the globe, professionals in the maritime industry, as well as SurfWEC and M&O personnel. Although each panelist differed in their professional roles, the panel was united in its vision to move away from fossil fuel dependence and look to a future that integrates various renewable power systems. Specifically, the panel wanted to ensure that using the ocean as a renewable power source is a seminal part of a sustainable future.
Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson, OF, one of the distinguished panelists, noted that greenhouse gases are the main enemies of our global society causing the three great challenges of biodiversity diminishment, oceans’ decline, and the ills of climate change. It was noted that island nations in particular are at the greatest risk of the symptoms of these challenges. As such, ocean-based climate solutions, like wave energy converters, as part of the sustainable energy triad are not only necessary to meet Paris Climate Change Agreement 2030 goals but also necessary to meet further goals of net-zero carbon emissions and eliminating reliance on fossil fuels.
Using Wave Energy Converters to Empower Communities
The Honorable Kirk D. M. Humphrey, M.P., Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Barbados, spoke of the innate relationship that island peoples have with the oceans and waters. He and other representatives discussed how any viable energy harvesting device must take into account their countries’ historical and cultural ties with the water and must empower the people with ownership of the projects that are powering their communities. Mr. Humphrey noted that in particular, we must find “meaningful, practical solutions that will change the lives of ordinary people.”
The Global Partnership for Ocean Wave Energy Technology (GPOWET) and Ocean Energy Europe (OEE) both outlined important developments in the wave energy harnessing industry. They illustrated how investment in this emerging area, and in companies like SurfWEC, will create long-term energy solutions where they are needed most, and will also create employment and investment opportunities in the infrastructure that will power the homes and communities of nations that adopt these technologies.
As Ambassador Thomson noted, in working to mitigate our reliance on fossil fuels and increase our use of sustainable energy sources, each country, business, community, family, and person must ask themselves what they are doing to affect our environment. We must use our platforms, whatever they may be, to make a meaningful and concerted effort in battling our common enemy and making our environment and communities healthier and stronger.
In her closing remarks, H.E. Ambassador H. Elizabeth Thompson, Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations, said, “…if you place this conversation in the context of using some of the small island developing states as test-beds for new, emerging technologies that are transformative of our circumstances, of our societies, economies, and environment then this conversation today is an extremely important one.”