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A Challenge for the Caribbean: Nature and Tourism

Excerpt taken from the Inter-American Development Bank’s publication:

Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21: No. 41: March, 2017

Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, (CCCCC)

One of the greatest injustices of pollution is that its consequences are not limited to those who produce it. The Caribbean is one of the least polluting regions in the world but it is also one of the most exposed to global warming due to the importance of the tourism sector within its economy.

Carlos Fuller, an expert from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, explains the consequences of the region’s dependence on petroleum and analyzes the potential of public policy for supporting renewable energy.

How is climate change impacting the Caribbean?

The Caribbean’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small because we have a small population, we are not very industrialized, and we don’t do a lot of agriculture, so we don’t emit a lot. However, mitigation is important for us because of the high cost of fuel and energy. Most of our islands depend on petroleum as a source of energy, and when oil prices were above US$100 per barrel, we were spending more than 60% of our foreign exchange on importing petroleum products into the Caribbean. In that respect, we really want to transition to renewable energy sources as we have considerable amounts of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy potential.

Has climate change started to affect tourism?

It has. Climate change is severely impacting our natural attractions, our tourist attractions. For example, we have a significant amount of erosion because of sea level rise, wave action, and storm surges, which is causing tremendous erosion and affecting our beaches. Our coral reefs, which are a big attraction, are also suffering a lot of bleaching which is impacting our fish stock. Those resources are being affected significantly. We do have significant protected areas; however, we need more resources to enforce the protection of these.

What role do public policies play in developing renewable energy?

In some countries, [we’re] doing reasonably well on this front. In Belize, for example, we now have independent coal producers and we have transitioned to an increased use of hydro, solar, and biomass, so more than 50% of our domestic electricity supply is from renewable energy sources. However, on many of the islands, we need to create an enabling environment to allow renewable energy to penetrate the market. We are going to need a lot of assistance from the international community to put in the regulatory framework that will allow us to develop renewable energy in these places. We then need to attract potential investors to provide sources of renewable energy in the region. Of course, the Caribbean’s tourism is an important sector of the economy, which is one of the reasons we need to protect our reserves and natural parks. We are also trying to make our buildings more resilient to the effects of extreme weather. That is the focus of our work.

How does the Green Climate Fund work? 

The Green Climate Fund is headquartered in South Korea and it has an independent board of management. However, various agencies can be accredited to access the fund directly. We have already applied for a project to preserve the barrier reef and another to promote biomass use in the Caribbean. So, we have two projects in the pipeline through the Green Climate Fund which are valued at around US$20 million.

Do you think that the Paris and Marrakesh summits brought concrete results for the region?

We were very pleased with the outcome in Paris. The objectives that the Caribbean Community wanted were achieved: the limit for warming was set at 2°C; adaptation was considered along with mitigation; finance, technology transfer, and capacity building were included; and a compliance system was put in place. All the things that we wanted out of Paris, we achieved, and so we are very happy with that.

Peruse the complete Integration & Trade Journal: Volume 21

Government of Belize Bans Offshore Exploration in and around all Seven World Heritage Sites

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System © Tony Rath / Tony Rath

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System © Tony Rath / Tony Rath

In 1996 the Belize Barrier Reef was designated as World Heritage Site. However, concessions for offshore exploration and navigational errors that cause grounding on the reef had resulted in it being added UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2009.
But earlier this week, the Government of Belize has approved a policy that will legally apply a ban on offshore exploration in areas along the Belize Barrier Reef System, and within the seven (7) World Heritage Sites in Belize. During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, the ministers agreed to specifically ban offshore exploration in all 7 World Heritage Sites:

Middle Caye, Glovers Reef Marine Reserve Photo Credit: Jose A. Sanchez

Middle Caye, Glovers Reef Marine Reserve
Photo Credit: Jose A. Sanchez

  1. Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park
  2. Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and National Park
  3.  Lighthouse Reef Natural Monument
  4.  South Water Caye Marine Reserve
  5. Laughing Bird Caye National Park
  6. Glovers Reef Marine Reserve
  7. Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve

This effectively results in a total of 448 square miles being banned. In addition, Cabinet agreed to a ban offshore exploration within one kilometer on either side of the Belizean Barrier Reef System, resulting in an additional 868 square miles falling under the offshore exploration ban. The total area covered by the ban is 842,714 acres or 1,316 square miles.

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Former programme Specialist, Special Projects Unit at UNESCO World Heritage Centre Marc Patry told the Communications Specialist at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) “I was very happy to read that the Government of Belize has decided to ban all oil exploration activities within the World Heritage site, and even extending out 1km beyond the boundaries. This is a testament to the strength of the World Heritage Convention.”

Patry who is currently the principal consultant for World Heritage Solutions also says “It’s worth noting that major mining and oil companies are ahead of game on this one – having officially recognized World Heritage sites as “no-go” areas. It surprises me when the private sector is more visionary than some governments on conservation matters! Still, I applaud the tireless efforts of Belizeans who I know have been making a lot of noise over this issue and congratulate the government of Belize for doing something for which Belizeans a hundred years from now will thank them for.”

Cabinet further agreed that areas that fall outside of the large acreages banned, would not automatically allow for seismic activities and exploration drilling without conducting the existing stringent environmental studies to determine critical habitats and sensitive zones. The required environmental studies would then further give guidance to areas outside the ban, to scientifically determine the type and nature of exploration that can occur in these explorable areas. This decision by the Cabinet demonstrates the government’s resolve in ensuring the continued protection of Belize’s Barrier Reef System and its seven World Heritage Sites.

Caribbean Coral Reef Leaders Complete Intensive Fellowship at the Great Barrier Reef

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

Photo Credit: Environmental Graffiti

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. The loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the region, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the Caribbean is seeking to turn the tide through partnerships. A group of five coral reef managers from across the Caribbean recently participated in an intensive three week Coral Reef Management Fellowship programme at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – the best managed reef in the world.

The Caribbean contingent was among a group of 12 fellows, including their peers from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Caribbean fellows are: Roland Baldeo (Grenada), Andrea Donaldson and Christine O’Sullivan (Jamaica), Michelle Kalamandeen (Guyana) and Andrew Lockhart (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The fellows visited government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They experienced the Great Barrier Reef and many facets of catchment to reef management through direct interactions with a diversity of land and sea habitats, scientists, managers, farmers, educators, media, volunteers and industry leaders. The Fellowship also included home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange.

This was a rare and valuable experience as it brought together coral reef managers from diverse locations to gain and share expertise. Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, welcomed the successful completion of the fellowship, noting:

“This is an excellent programme to boost understanding of marine protected areas and the role it can play in sustainable development. It gives our people an opportunity to see how effective coral reef management is done in another community. Importantly, they are gaining insights from the major work being done to rectify some of the issues with the world’s longest barrier reef. It’s a unique experience.”

Citing the fellows’ exposure to an intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station, which included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and teamwork, Dr Leslie urged the fellows to be agents of change across the Caribbean.

“At this point in our development it is important that we ensure that whatever we do, we do not make the assumption that resources are unlimited and that all our actions are resilient and our environment is protected,” Dr Leslie added.

The Caribbean and Pacific fellows are part of an Australia Awards Fellowship programme funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, titled Improving coral reef management for sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pacific. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The programme supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders.

The fellowship programme was organised and hosted by Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting company with expertise on coral reef management, which was founded by former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employees Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall.

“We have observed the decline of coral reefs globally and we recognized that training of future leaders is essential for turning the tide towards a more sustainable future. Australia is the world leader in coral reef conservation and marine resource management. This Fellowship is a chance to share Australia’s expertise with the world,” said Dr Marshall.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.

However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.

“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie

The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.

According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.

Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.

Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. “What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers,” he noted.

To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.

Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize.

Developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it has been adopted by the CCCCC as a centrepiece of the effort to obtain reliable data as a basis for strategies for fighting climate change.

Dr. Leslie says the CREWS system represents a leap forward in research technology on climate change. The humble buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. The data collected on atmospheric and oceanic conditions such as oceanic turbidity, levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful elements and others are monitored from the Centre’s office in Belmopan and the data sent along to international scientists who can more concretely analyse it.

The South Water Caye CREWS station is one of two in Belize; the other is located at the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) on Calabash Caye in the Turneffe Atoll range. Other stations are located in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, with more planned in other key areas.

According to the CEO of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Vincent Gillet, this is an example of the kind of work that needs to be done to keep the coastal zone healthy and safeguard resources for Belize’s future generations.

A report released at the start of Coastal Awareness Week in Belize City urges greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the participation of the local managers of the coastal zone in a policy to combat those effects. Several recommendations were made, including empowering the Authority with more legislative heft, revising the land distribution policy and bringing more people into the discussion.

The report was the work of over 30 local and international scientists who contributed to and prepared it.

In receiving the CREWS equipment, the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Adele Catzim-Sanchez, sought to remind that the problem of climate change is real and unless it is addressed, Belizeans may be contributing to their own demise.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei, reported that the Union may soon be able to offer even more help with the planned negotiations in Paris, France, in 2015 for a global initiative on climate change, with emphasis on smaller states. Belize already benefits from separate but concurrent projects, the latter of which aims to give Belize a sustainable development plan and specific strategy to address climate change.

In addition, Dr. Leslie is pushing for even more monitoring equipment, including current metres to study the effect of terrestrial activity such as mining and construction material gathering as well as deforestation on the sea, where the residue of such activities inevitably ends up.

Credit: IPS News Agency

Australian Envoy Touts Collaboration with the 5Cs

Credit: CARICOM Secretariat.Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (R), CARICOM Secretary-General, accepts the Letters of Credence of His Excellency Ross William Tysoe (L), the Plenipotentiary Representative of Australia to CARICOM. Thursday 4 April, 2013, CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters, Georgetown, Guyana.

Credit: CARICOM Secretariat.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (R), CARICOM Secretary-General, accepts the Letters of Credence of His Excellency Ross William Tysoe (L), the Plenipotentiary Representative of Australia to CARICOM. Thursday 4 April, 2013, CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters, Georgetown, Guyana.

The Australian High Commissioner to CARICOM Ross Tysoe AO says “impressive work” is being carried out by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which he experienced first-hand during a recent visit.

The envoy cited the Centre’s effective management of Australia’s technical and cooperation assistance in supporting Belize’s Barrier Reef Marine System, adding that Australia is pleased to have contributed to this project which included a coral reef early warning station. The Ambassador said the project is a “fantastic example” of CARICOM-Australia cooperation. Speaking on Thursday, April 04, 2013 following the formal acceptance of his letter of credence by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the envoy said he is convinced Australia’s aid programmes are “in safe hands”.

Executive Director of the CARICOM Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenric Leslie and High Commissioner Ross Tysoe, AO

Executive Director of the CARICOM Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenric Leslie CBE and High Commissioner Ross Tysoe, AO

Cooperation between CARICOM and Australia was formalised in November 2009 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, between the leaders of CARICOM and Australia. At that meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, paving the way for Australia to make some $60 million (AUS) available over four years to CARICOM for cooperation in areas of special mutual interest.

The areas of cooperation include climate change, disaster risk reduction and emergency management; regional integration, including trade facilitation; education, including in the fields of science and technology, provision of scholarships and training of diplomats; university co-operation; food security and agricultural co-operation; renewable energy, microfinance; border security and sport, youth and culture.

Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre.

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