October 26, 2021
The Enel X Island X Prix just wrapped up in Sardinia, offering drivers, scientists and partners a talking stage for the climate crisis and sustainability-related challenges. As part of the schedule, a series of thought leadership talks were organized, one of which was recently hosted by Extreme E to address the specific climate change challenges facing islands, with a particular focus on Mediterranean islands. Enel Foundation’s Managing Director Carlo Papa attended the panel, together with Prof. Carlos Duarte, Extreme E Scientific Committee member and climate expert, Carlos Sainz, one of the greatest rally drivers of all-time, Acciona Sainz XE Team, and Christine GZ, XITE Energy driver.
Islands present a number of specific challenges in the climate change context, including specific vulnerabilities to sea level rise, with the Mediterranean especially heating three times faster than the global average. In addition, oscillations in water resources are particularly significant, as islands usually have, because of their small catchments, limited water resources. Other challenges are linked to energy transition, as they are often off the grid, or connected by single cable connections to mainland grids, which make them vulnerable to power failure, and due to limited land area, they often lack the space to accommodate renewable energy systems required to supply the domestic energy needs.
Yet, islands are surrounded by ocean, which offers opportunities, largely untapped, for a blue economy, deriving renewable energy, sustainable blue foods and water. This brings the question of whether islands need their own sustainability model rather than passively receiving the processes dictated by metropolitan ecological transitions. This was one of the main questions that was discussed during the event in Sardinia, tackling it from the many perspectives and contexts of the speakers.
Carlo Papa, Enel Foundation Managing Director, said: “The Sixth IPCC Assessment Report has said climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying. In the words of UN Secretary General we are on red alert. After having understood the physical science basis of climate change hazards, we need to understand exposure and vulnerability, for example, of how a storm will impact a port and the people living and working in the area. Going forward, adaptation will be key and the good news is that we have the technologies and knowledge to get prepared while making sure to act faster and more decisively on mitigation.”
Carlos Sainz, a scuba diver and also a helicopter pilot, commented: “When I joined Extreme E my interest in climate change was moderate, but since becoming involved in the series my awareness has grown and I’m now very interested in climate change, particularly noticing sea level rise.”
Christine GZ, who has grown up within island communities and has an Engineering degree, spoke about the resilience and attitude of islanders. She said: “Motorsport is not traditionally sustainable but Extreme E is changing the conversation. The Legacy Programmes, seeing the wildfires this week and the Count Us In Challenge have really made me open my eyes to climate challenges.”
Professor Carlos Duarte concluded: “Extreme E gives scientists a voice, through the power and reach of the series with its drivers and many partners involved. The best thing we can all do is raise awareness by talking to people about the facts and showcasing how technology can help. The power of communication is key if we want to keep the beauty of the planet.”
The series is now looking ahead to COP26, a summit bringing together world leaders and businesses to accelerate action towards climate change, before the season finale in Dorset, UK, from 18-19 December.