POLICY BRIEF: Climate impacts on agriculture and tourism – the case for climate resilient investment in the Caribbean
For the Caribbean, climate change is not tomorrow’s problem. The threats it poses are neither distant nor abstract – they are already apparent. In recent years, hurricanes have caused major damage in countries such as Jamaica, Grenada and Cuba; severe flooding has hit Belize and Guyana; and droughts affect much of the east of the region. The small island state of Saint Lucia alone has faced 27 natural disasters between 1980 and 2008, with total economic damage reaching an estimated US$2.5 billion. The need for investment to build climate resilience in the Caribbean has never been greater.
These impacts are putting considerable strain on the finances of national governments, businesses and citizens, and threaten regional prosperity and development. The Commonwealth Expert Group on Climate Finance has said that climate change is already reversing some of the gains on poverty alleviation and economic growth that have been made in the Caribbean.
Over the past decade, research funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) has provided fresh insight into the nature of the climate threat to the Caribbean. Researchers have developed regionally downscaled climate change projections and climate visualisation tools providing information that can be used to make informed decisions at the subregional level. This information has been used in conjunction with a range of other tools, and has been applied to real-life situations in Caribbean nations including Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize and Cuba.
Focusing on the agriculture and tourism sectors, this document identifies some of the most pressing issues and climate vulnerabilities facing Caribbean states. It makes the case that climate resilience investment by governments, businesses and development partners is urgently needed to sustain economic and social development, and points to some possible approaches to adaptation and resilience building.
- Climate variability and change are already having severe impacts on key sectors including agriculture and tourism.
- These impacts are reversing economic growth, exacerbating poverty and undermining the future prosperity of Caribbean countries.
- CDKN research has provided locally appropriate climate change projections that give fresh insight into the vulnerability of key sectors.
- Adaptation investment in the agriculture sector is needed to account for projected changes in rainfall and growing seasons, and occurrence of extreme events, especially drought.
- Adaptation investment in the tourism sector is also needed to build resilience to rising seas, bleached coral reefs, water scarcity and gradual temperature increase.
- There are many potential adaptation measures that can be applied by governments, businesses, individuals and development partners.
- Financial support is needed to support adaptation action as high up-front costs are a barrier to local adaptation efforts.
- Effectively prioritising adaptation options can maximise their value and lead to positive co-benefits for individuals, businesses and society.
Picture: Cuban farmer – Tach_RedGold&Green on Flickr