Wooden fishing boat on beach at sunset in Jamaica.

The island nation of Jamaica has become acutely aware that the global climate change crisis is now a major factor affecting not only its infrastructure but its economy. With tourism being a top economic driver throughout the Caribbean, and visitors keen on experiencing the islands’ natural beauty, the destruction caused by hurricanes like Irma and Maria delivers a severe blow to Jamaica and its neighbors.

In response, Jamaica is taking a proactive approach to prepare itself for future natural disasters, hoping to minimize their impact and strengthen its own resilience.

To address the problem, the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre—a first-of-its-kind resource in the Caribbean—was developed at the University of the West Indies, and officially launched in January 2019 with a mission to conduct policy-relevant research and analysis on destination preparedness and crises.

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“Economic growth in tourism and improvements in the quality of life in Caribbean destinations will depend on our bold commitment to taking action on global issues such as climate change and global warming,” said Donovan White, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “Our efforts highlight how Jamaica is leading the revolution in Caribbean climate change and will ensure that travelers continue making Jamaica their number one choice around the world.”

Among its primary goals is to develop an agricultural sector that would be climate resilient. Droughts, floods and storms can all affect the quality of the soil used for farming, which is critical to raising healthy crops. The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre believes that there is great potential to restore degraded farmlands through practices such as organic farming, managed grazing, and agroforestry.

Another initiative, which had already been initiated prior to the impact of the 2017 hurricanes, is the installation of a sustainable and independent energy-production system. In 2004, Jamaica opened the Wigton Wind Farms—the largest wind farm in the English-speaking Caribbean. The facility currently helps to power over 55,000 local homes through use of a hybrid energy-storage system that works with a flywheel and battery. As part of its national goal to shift to renewable resources, Jamaica now aims to build offshore wind farms in hopes of generating about half of all its power.

Additionally, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator project, which officially launched in Kingston in August 2018 at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, aims to make the Caribbean the world’s first “climate-smart zone”. Twenty-seven Caribbean government heads and some of the world’s leading companies, financial institutions, and foundations have joined the Accelerator to help the Caribbean achieve solutions for resilience, renewable energy, and development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation. Jamaican authorities predict that the establishment of this climate-smart zone will spur economic growth, social inclusion and job creation.

For more information, visit visitjamaica.com.