By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Caribbean must develop effective strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on the tourism sector and standards of living, a top tourism official said yesterday.
Joy Jibrilu, the Ministry of Tourism's director-general, addressing the opening of a Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework and Disaster Risk Management workshop, said: "With the recent impacts of climate change on global economies, it is imperative that regional communities such as the Caribbean region begin to recognise the enormous threat that this phenomenon has - not only on our tourism economy but our very standard of life - and urgently develop effective strategies to mitigate its impact on life, property and infrastructure."
She added: "While climate change impacts the development of all nations, notwithstanding size of economy or location, small island nations are more vulnerable than any group of nations worldwide to the ravaging impact of climate change. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are more susceptible to the likes of sea level rise, coastal erosion and storm surges due to the fact that some one-third of our population reside on land that is less than five metres below sea level."
]Mrs Jibrilu said it was estimated that SIDS contribute less than one percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, the major contributor to global warming and resulting climate change, yet their livelihoods were disproportionately affected by the impacts.
"It is my opinion that climate change and its impact are not only one of the greatest threats to our economic lifeline but to our very existence as SIDS," she added. "With resulting increased average temperature, droughts, flooding due to frequent and severe weather events, and rising sea levels, we will be increasingly challenged with vector and water borne diseases like dengue, diarrhoeal disease and malaria, which threatens the health of our visitors as well as our residents."
"Such outbreaks can have negative impacts on our human resources, impacting the quality of service for our visitors and local clients alike. Meanwhile, the onset of droughts will not only impact our access to clean and healthy supply of water and sanitation, but also pose a challenge to our food security.
"Rising sea level, which is projected to triple every year by 2100 from its current level of three millimetres per annum, is also a threat to our food security as the agricultural sector is increasingly challenged with fewer acres of arable land. Additionally, scientists have projected that the Caribbean region will record the largest decline in seasonal rainfall in the 2080s, with a reduction during northern hemisphere summers of nearly 20 percent. We therefore need to be aware of this and prepare some adaptive strategies."
Mrs Jibrilu said the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean's (ECLAC) damage and loss assessments for the five countries (Anguilla, The Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands, St Maarten and Turks and Caicos) hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria totalled some $5.4bn in 2017.
"The most affected sectors were tourism and housing respectively," she added. "These were monumental losses, and show the importance for the region to allocate resources in disaster risk mitigation and preparedness to ensure that the respective destinations rebound as quickly as possible.
"In fact, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the most devastating hurricane season in recorded history with a damage total of some $282.16bn. Here at home we were hit by three devastating hurricanes in three consecutive years (2015, 2016 and 2017). These hurricanes, namely Matthew, Joaquin and Irma, resulted in a combined loss of over $800m to our economy."
Mrs Jibrilu said: "To protect the image of our respective destinations we must all be vigilant of the various threats that can have an adverse impact on our economic lifeblood - our tourism economy."