Thu | Apr 2, 2020

Earth Today | Economic diversity key to survival

Published:Thursday | October 31, 2019 | 12:20 AM
Caribbean tourism has historically been sold on the basis of sand, sea and sun.

THE CARIBBEAN is being urged to diversify its economic base in the face of climate- change risks that could significantly compromise traditional moneymakers such as tourism.

“The region should diversify its economic base and reduce its dependency on single sectors, such as tourism, agriculture or fisheries. These are already highly sensitive and will become hypersensitive beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming,” said Professor Michelle Mycoo, author of the 2017 study Beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius: Vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies for Caribbean Small Island Developing States.

“The Caribbean has been branded mainly as a coastal tourism destination, but with the possibility of temperature warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, significant loss of coral reefs and beaches is expected. Coastal structures to protect beaches will be aesthetically unpleasing and costly beach nourishment will be unfeasible,” she added.


Mycoo has suggested diversification within the sector itself, as part of the solution.

“Terrestrial-based tourism promoting the rainforest and heritage tourism should be marketed as alternatives to coastal tourism that may stabilise small island developing states’ economies and reduce the potential to create economic refugees,” she said.

“Much remains to be done to understand how tourism and the destinations in which it operates can prosper in the increasingly changed climate of the 21st century,” she added.

That changed reality include more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, as well as sea level rise and associated implications for disease prevalence, freshwater security and food security.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has itself noted economic diversification as an important resilience-building strategy for vulnerable economies.

“Traditionally, it (economic diversification) has been applied as a strategy to encourage positive economic growth and development. In the context of climate-change adaptation, it takes on a new relevance as a strategy to diversify away from vulnerable products, markets, and jobs towards income sources that are low-emission and more climate-resilient,” notes the UNFCCC website.

Knowledge sharing

The UNFCCC, through the Nairobi Work Programme, (NWP) has also provided the opportunity for knowledge sharing on the subject among country parties to the convention and other stakeholders. The 12th Focal Point Forum on the NWP, held in Katowice, Poland, last year was one such opportunity.

That forum identified several key principles to maximise efficiency for economic diversification, including the assessment and exploration of the most appropriate economic diversification options and/or approaches, based on research; and the creation of enabling environments that allow communities to pilot, replicate, sustain, and scale up approaches to economic diversification.

Also advanced was the need for economic diversification to be community-centred, owned, driven and managed, as well as being built on local knowledge and experience, together with an understanding of market needs and options.