By Rochelle Williams
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, has called for collaboration between Caribbean media interests, and public and private sector entities to develop strategies designed to strengthen regional resilience to the impact of climate change.
He noted that Jamaica and the wider Caribbean have a major stake in how the climate change phenomenon is dealt with, adding that “we do not have to look very far to see why.”
The minister pointed out that regional economies are predicated on climate-sensitive industries and sectors, such as tourism and agriculture.
“The Caribbean’s increasing vulnerability to climate change is evident in higher temperature, rising sea level and increased hurricane intensity that threaten the lives, property and livelihood of the millions of people throughout our region,” Mr. Bartlett added.
He was speaking at the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s (CBU) recent Caribbean Broadcasting Awards ceremony in New Kingston.
Bartlett noted that several powerful hurricanes and storms caused catastrophic damage across sections of the Caribbean last year, resulting in economic losses exceeding $100 billion and inestimable loss of life of about 200 persons.
He pointed out that a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) industry study indicated that the 2017 hurricane season resulted in an estimated diversion of 826,100 visitors from the Caribbean who would have spent US$74 million and provided sustenance for 11,000 jobs.
“Even more disturbing, according to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, studies show that the projected cost to the region due to increased hurricane damage, loss of revenue to the tourism sector and damage to infrastructure could be $10 billion by 2025 and $22 billion by 2050,” he stated.
The minister further noted that the region’s heavy reliance on tourism for foreign direct investment (FDI) makes the Caribbean particularly vulnerable to these catastrophic events.
“Last year, 30.1 million visitors came into the Caribbean space… (stopover, and) 23 million (cruise). That is 54 million people, and they spent US$37 billion. The region, as a result, has experienced eight consecutive years of growth, except for 2017. Therefore you see why climate change matters to small island states and developing countries like ours,” he added.
In this regard, Bartlett said the Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre to be established at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, is an important strategy that will be pivotal in building regional resilience to climate change impacts.
“This regional and global entity is going to provide the Caribbean with the capacity to track these disruptions, to develop the capacity for mitigation to better manage these disruptions when they come… but more importantly, to recover and to recover quickly and then to build better. So the importance of resilience is a key factor in this centre… it adds value and takes us into another dimension in innovation,” the minister further stated.
The Centre will assist destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that threaten economies and livelihoods globally with real time data and effective communication.
Noting that climate change is a complex issue with enormous political, social and economic implications, Bartlett said there is need for partnerships between the Caribbean media organisations and resilience and crisis management entities across the world to shape public perception in understanding the phenomenon, while helping to influence policies and encourage policymakers to act.
“Given the wide reach of the media – newspapers, radio, television and now social media – you are still the main source of information and opinion for millions of people across the world. As media, you are in a powerful position to be instigators of debate and to shape what people think, feel and do about climate change and building resilience to its impact. It requires not only good journalistic skills, but scientific literacy too. It requires listening to the scientific voice and then disseminating this information to the public in a concise, clear and compelling way,” he contended.