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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

Atlantic, Caribbean storms more destructive as temperatures rise – study

Hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans will grow more than twice as powerful and damaging as ocean temperatures rise from global warming, a new study says.

Warming seas could produce more rainfall and far more destructive storm surges of water along the ocean shorelines in the next 50 to 100 years, said the study by U.S. scientists published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“It could affect the entire Atlantic coast,” said William Lau, a co-author and research associate at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center.

Simulation showed future storms with as much as 180 percent more rain than what occurred during Superstorm Sandy, which heavily damaged the Northeastern United States in 2012, he said.

“The rainfall itself is probably way out in the ocean, but the storm surge would be catastrophic,” he said.

In 2012, Sandy killed 159 people and inflicted $71 billion in damage as it battered the U.S. coast, especially in the states of New Jersey and New York. Nearly 200,000 households obtained emergency government assistance, and rebuilding remains stalled in some areas.

Simulating weather patterns with higher ocean temperatures rising due to global warming, the study found future hurricanes could generate forces 50 to 160 percent more destructive than Sandy.

Credit: Reuters

Growing a future – Coral restoration in Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

Fishers of Bluefields Bay tell stories of a time when the coral grew so high parts of the reef were impassable, when boats had to navigate around the coral tips emerging out of the Caribbean’s blue waters. Four decades later a trip underwater will show you a seafloor still covered with the skeletons of these same corals. Due to the effects of hurricanes, decline of algae grazers and climate change, the once lush thicket is only a story told around a bottle of Red Stripe beer and a cup of fish soup (since the fish is too scarce to cook any other way).

Until now. The climate isn’t the only thing changing for some communities around the Caribbean. In Bluefields Bay, Jamaica, the community has come together with the Government to establish one of the fourteen (14) fish sanctuaries island wide. Since 2009, the community based organisation, Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society (BBFFS) has managed the sanctuary with enforcement, public awareness and community engagement. Many of the sanctuary Wardens are former or part-time fishers who can tell the stories of what it used to be like, and now the stories of how things are changing for the better.

Photo Credit: From left to right, Venis Bryan (BBFFS), Tripp Funderburk (CRFI), Ryan Facey (Bluefields), Barrington Henry (Bluefields), and Ken Nedimyer (CFRI) about to go on a coral recon trip. Photo by S. Lee.

A new chapter has started for this community – one of partnerships and growth – and one which hopefully will bring the old memories of corals back to life again. The branching species of coral – Elkhorn coral ( Acropora cervicornis) and Staghorn coral ( Acropora palmata) – which are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have long been known to provide a good habitat for fish, and provide shoreline protection from storm surges (see reference).  They, along with the Fire coral (Millepora complanata), have more recently been used by the Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI) in large scale restoration projects in the region.

In early 2015, CRFI in partnership with CARIBSAVE, Sandals Foundation, the Fisheries Division and BBFFS completed the installation of a coral garden at Bluefields Bay’s – the first of its kind on Jamaica’s south coast. This was done through funding provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and with co-funding from CARIBSAVE’s C-FISH Initiative.

During this time, 12 persons from a wide range of stakeholders including fishermen were trained in the techniques of ‘coral gardening’.  They also participated in the processes needed to assemble and install the coral nursery, such as searching for, fragmenting (coined as ‘fragging’) and hanging of the corals. A total of 1324 coral fragments or nubbins from 25 different colonies were hung in the nursery. Over the course of the next few months the coral fragments should grow, and when large enough will be out-planted to the reefs.

As a beneficiary of the C-FISH Initiative, the Bluefields Bay fish sanctuary has shown great promise in being a successful flagship site and this is yet another step on the road to the promising future.

Special thanks to the Government of Jamaica (The Fisheries Division and National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA)) who recognized the importance of this activity and gave invaluable support; to Sandals Foundation who provided assistance; to the team from CRFI who shared their passion and expertise; and to the fishers and wardens who volunteered with great enthusiasm and dedication and were a big asset and source of inspiration and encouragement.

Photo Credit: Some of the team who helped to lay down the first coral garden in southern Jamaica. From left to right, standing – Junior Squire (Fisheries Division), Michelle McNaught (CARIBSAVE), Tripp Funderburk (CRFI), Ryan Facey (Bluefields), Trevorton Bryan (Fisheries Division), Barrington Henry (Bluefields), Newton Eristhee (CARIBSAVE), Patti Gross (CRFI), Jonathan Hernould (Sandals Foundation), Anna-Cherice Ebanks-Chin (Fisheries Division), Simone Lee (CARIBSAVE), Cavin Lattiebudare (BBFFS), Venis Bryan (BBFFS). Sitting/Kneeling – Ken Nedimyer (CRFI), Denise Nedimyer (CFRI), John Hauk (CRFI).

 Credit: C-Fish
The Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative (C-FISH) is a project aimed at strengthening community-based fish sanctuaries by providing resources, training and alternative livelihood opportunities in 5 Countries across the Caribbean. The C-FISH Initiative (£2.1 million) is funded by the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID) through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and is coordinated by The CARIBSAVE Partnership.
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