The Caribbean region comprises of more than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays, and is organised into 30 territories including nations, overseas territories and dependencies. It is home to 40 million people (as of 2009), with the largest cities found in Jamaica, Trinidad and Cuba. Countries are diverse in terms of resources, governance systems and administrative capacity.
Many Caribbean nations are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are internationally recognised as being particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. The Caribbean is already experiencing effects associated with climate change, including sea level rise, coastal erosion, destructive weather systems, and periods of drought or flooding. In some Caribbean countries, damage from severe weather events already amounts to 6% of GDP per year. Estimates of damages associated to climate change are estimated at 22 billion by 2050.
Most Caribbean economies are dominated by tourism and agriculture, which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Vulnerability is exacerbated because 60% of the Caribbean’s population lives within 1.5 km of the coast. Resilience is constrained by economic growth rates that have slowed dramatically, falling from 4.3% in the 1970s to just 0.9% since 2000. Efforts for reconstruction from recent natural disasters and the ability to invest in adapting key infrastructure is impaired by high public debt, which in some cases reaches 100% of GDP. Climate related costs (e.g. impacts on the tourism industry) coupled with already vulnerable economies, are detrimental to the sustained growth and stability of the Caribbean and its ability to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).