Defending Paradise: Caribbean Governments and Global Corporations Commit to Immediate Action to Protect the Environment and Accelerate Renewable Energy


15 Caribbean countries and 17 companies join forces at inaugural Caribbean Summit of Political and Business Leaders focused on the marine and coastal environment and renewable energy, committing $64 million and pledging immediate action to protect the environment and accelerate renewable energy.

In a joint effort to safeguard and bolster the Caribbean region’s tourism-dependent economy, fifteen Caribbean governments and seventeen corporations met on Necker Island, home of Sir Richard Branson, in the British Virgin Islands this weekend and made a series of bold commitments to preserve and protect the region’s marine and coastal environment, and accelerate efforts to transition to renewable energy. “Protecting and harnessing the natural world is the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. “The energy challenge and marine conservation challenge in the Caribbean go hand-in-hand: we can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy environment, nor a healthy environment without a healthy economy.” These commitments included approximately $64 million in funding to support marine and coastal conservation, along with commitments to take new actions and to put in place more sustainable business practices.

The event, launching the second phase of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), was co-hosted by Dr. the Right Honourable Keith C. Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. The event’s sponsoring partner was Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and the event was organized by The Nature Conservancy, with support from Virgin Unite, the non-profit entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group, and the Carbon War Room. [. . .]

The high-level dialogue resulted in consensus on the utmost importance of working together – as a region and across sectors – to tackle the pressing and interlinked issues of marine and coastal conservation, renewable energy and economic development. The specific areas for further work include:

  • The urgent need to create protection for sharks and rays across the whole Caribbean region with the aim of creating a region-wide sanctuary within two years.
  • Establishing a clear regulatory framework that delivers a systemic and regional approach to conservation of the marine and coastal environment, including increasing considerably the number of marine protected areas.
  • A dramatic acceleration in the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources over the next five years. This will be supported by the sharing of best practices, scaling of new technologies, and streamlining of regulatory processes applicable to renewable energy. [. . .]

Commitments announced at the Summit by individual governments to support these efforts included:

The Bahamas: Establishment of a national trust fund to protect biodiversity, and recent declaration of six marine protected areas, with a pledge by the Government to further expand the system of marine reserves.

The British Virgin Islands: Adoption of a Protected Areas System Plan which calls for 33 percent of the marine and coastal environment to be protected.

Jamaica: Establishment of a network of 14 fish sanctuaries.

Puerto Rico: A commitment to double the number of protected areas.

Grenada: Reaffirmation of a previous commitment to protect 25 percent of Grenada’s marine and coastal environment.

Belize: Protection of 30 percent of Belize’s marine and coastal environment, with over 10 percent designated as no-take fishing zones. [. . .]

Click here to download a complete listing of commitments. Video footage from the Caribbean Summit can be found on The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube Channel and photos can be found on the Conservancy’s Flickr page.

[Photo above: Necker Island, where the summit took place.]

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