Tue | Jan 21, 2020

Tourism at risk if climate change not halted, activist warns

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 12:35 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Leilani Mϋnter (right), environmental activist, talks with Pauline Wilson (left), board member, Branson Centre, and Lisandra Rickards, outgoing chief entrepreneurship officer of the Branson Centre at the special summit held at the Spanish Court Hotel on the margins of New Kingston on Wednesday.

Environmental activist Leilani Münter has warned that small island states like Jamaica could suffer a collapse of their tourism industry because of climate change.

Citing record temperature rises across the world as a litmus test of global warming, Münter, a former professional race-car driver, said that unpredictable weather patterns were further evidence that climate resilience was under threat.

“It is your small island states, Jamaica included, which is already bearing the brunt of climate change, and as we pollute our seas, and as we feel the change of ocean acidification due to the burning of fossil fuels, and as we destroy habitats, it will affect you more because you are totally surrounded by the sea,” said Münter, speaking to The Gleaner on the margins of The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Summit at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday.

She was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony for 25 entrepreneurs.

“It will have an even greater effect as a whole on the country as temperature rises and the weather becomes really more unpredictable,”

Münter, who is also a biology graduate, said it is important that people in Jamaica and across the Caribbean realise the serious nature of the drive to conserve oceans.

The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean is the region’s leading business accelerator, bringing world-class entrepreneurial support.

It was launched in 2011 by British business magnate Sir Richard Branson.

Over the past eight years, the centre has been able to consistently produce results that directly tackle unemployment and stimulate growth in the Caribbean.

More than 400 businesses across the Caribbean applied to be part of this year’s programme, with only high-potential entrepreneurs surviving the rigorous vetting process.

“We know that in order to move the needle on GDP growth and the rate of unemployment, the Caribbean needs more businesses that can employ hundreds of people, not just a few,” read a release from the centre.

Branson Centre Caribbean launched a specialised component of its programme this year to help blue-economy entrepreneurs scale their businesses so that they could have an impact on the ocean in a meaningful way.

The Caribbean has 80 per cent more sea than land, and up to 27 per cent of the global ocean economy comes from the Caribbean Sea.

But in recent years, the region has seen marked environmental changes as a result of climate change, with disappearing shorelines, more powerful hurricanes, and longer dry seasons.

This trend is expected to negatively affect the economy and population of the region over time, something Münter said should be taken seriously.

“The region is facing extended droughts and extensive, unseasonal amounts of torrential rain, which we all know can be devastating to farmland. All of this will impact the economy and the lives of the people,” she said.

That is why Branson Centre Caribbean, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, and Ocean Unite have partnered with the GETCH Foundation to grow a cadre of entrepreneurs geared at fuelling a sustainable blue economy in the Caribbean and mitigating the effects of climate change, pollution, and overfishing on oceans.

The GETCH Foundation is an economic influencer through grants and deployment of specialised technology. One of its programmes is its Ocean Conservation Programme.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com