CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Greening tourism, which contributes around 12 per cent of Saint Lucia's gross domestic product, diversifying agriculture and transforming the fossil fuels-based energy sector could help the Caribbean island strengthen its environmental and economic resilience, according to a new study launched last week.
Released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the Green Economy Scoping Study for Saint Lucia
couples an in-depth analysis of Saint Lucia's agriculture and tourism sectors with a more general review of manufacturing, transport and construction, integrating the key elements of energy, water and waste management
The study recommends policy reforms, which can help speed up the transition to a green economy in Saint Lucia which, like many small island developing states, is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
UNEP defines a green economy as one that results in improved human wellbeing and reduced inequalities in the long-term, without exposing future generations to significant environmental risks or ecological scarcities.
The scoping study was produced by the government of Saint Lucia, the ministry of sustainable development, energy, science and technology and UNEP, with the collaboration of the University of the West Indies, and financial support of the European Union, as part of the project Advancing Caribbean States' Sustainable Development through Green Economy.
"Given that Saint Lucia has already started integrating green economy into its national planning and policy frameworks, we hope that it inspires other countries on how to use this approach to move towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. UNEP's support to Saint Lucia on this transition continues, namely through the development of a new waste management project, which will build from the recommendations of the scoping study," said Vincent Sweeney, head of the UNEP Caribbean sub-regional office.
The scoping study identifies the most significant challenges for the tourism sector: the high input costs (primarily for energy, water and waste management), competing uses for environmentally sensitive areas accompanied by inadequate land use policies (particularly in coastal areas) as well as the need to diversify Saint Lucian tourism beyond "sun, sea and sand" vacations.
The report recommends that green tourism is mainstreamed by the government of Saint Lucia as a crucial part of its drive towards sustainability. The benefits of greening tourism include enhancing visitor experience, adding value to local businesses, supporting biodiversity and reducing the negative impact on the environment, according to the report.
The study also focuses on the need for diversifying the agricultural sector, so as to increase food security via more efficient, less resource-intensive production of non-traditional crops. The study confirms that aquaculture and aquaponics constitute investment opportunities that can stimulate job creation, particularly for the young.
The study also states that transforming the energy sector in Saint Lucia is key to advancing towards an inclusive green economy, given that all other sectors depend on energy. Currently, power generation is almost entirely based on fossil fuels, with 98 per cent of the island's energy supply coming from imported oil, leaving the country vulnerable to external shocks. Improving energy efficiency, reducing demand, and increasing the supply of renewable energy in the national energy mix can contribute to increased resilience and stability of the economy and bring environmental benefits.
The study also recommends a review and update of fiscal policies, such as reducing or removing fossil fuel subsidies, and the adoption of green public procurement.
Unsustainable water practices and inefficient water distribution threaten the availability of fresh water on the island. The study recommends developing positive partnerships and institutional arrangements, which would address institutional and regulatory gaps.
Despite having a relatively efficient solid waste collection system, the country is currently facing major challenges in its ability to cope with rising operation costs, growing demand of garbage collection services and costs associated with managing landfills more effectively. The study recommends institutional and policy reform to address waste generation and management.
This report is part of a series of publications produced by UNEP´s Green Economy Initiative, which was launched in 2008 to assist governments in shaping and focusing policies, investments and spending towards a range of green sectors, such as clean technologies, industry, renewable energies, water services, transport, waste management, green buildings, and sustainable agriculture and forests.