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INSIDE STORY: Opportunities for climate compatible coastal tourism – Lessons from Belize

Climate change is affecting coastal ecosystems globally, with severe implications for developing countries that are heavily reliant on their natural resources for economic growth. In Belize, coral reefs, mangroves and beaches are the cornerstone of the tourism industry, while coastal communities rely on mangrove- and reef-based fisheries for food and income. The growth of the tourism industry is viewed as essential to the country’s economic development, but this growth is often accompanied by habitat degradation that directly threatens the resources upon which the industry depends.

The challenge faced by decision-makers is how best to develop the tourism sector while maintaining healthy, functioning coastal ecosystems that support the industry, sustain people’s livelihoods and provide the coastline with natural resilience to climate change. A CDKN-supported project aimed to inform decision-makers by assessing the vulnerability of Belize’s tourism sector to climate change, including the coastal ecosystems on which it depends and its essential infrastructure.

This project to determine the climate vulnerability of coastal Belize, and propose solutions to climate-related threats, involved consultations and collaborations with local communities, privately owned tourism businesses and the government.
Key messages from this new Inside Story on Climate Compatible Development, which charts the project’s progress and impact, include:

  • The project used visual techniques including an interactive map to raise these groups’ awareness of climate vulnerability and to deliberate solutions collectively, which included embracing ‘grey-green’ infrastructure to guard against coastal erosion and flooding.
  • Involving all these stakeholders encouraged buy-in and the uptake of adaptation actions, notably the Government of Belize’s decision in February 2016 to adopt an integrated coastal zone management policy and related subnational action plans.
  • Mainstreaming climate change adaptation strategies within national policies and sectoral plans, alongside sound development planning, can lead to maximum returns.

If you liked this ‘Inside Story’, you can also download and share this two-page ‘Essential’ version of climate compatible development in Belize’s coastal tourism industry: Trouble in paradise.