Caribbean Initiatives in Global Climate Change


The Caribbean is currently facing one of its toughest challenges. The physical characteristics of the islands that form this region make them very vulnerable to climate change which even threatens the tourist industry on which they depend greatly. However, despite the seriousness of the situation, there seems to be a lack of accessible information on the matter at hand. Thus, this essay aspires to coherently bring some of that literature together in order to give a glimpse at Caribbean climate governance.

To be more precise, this essay will attempt to analyse the effectiveness of Caribbean climate change initiatives in Small Island States by using the theoretical framework of the National Research Council (NRC) (2010) that assessed the vulnerabilities and impacts of climate change within the United States. In their work, they suggest that vulnerability, which is defined as “the capacity to be harmed”, may be reduced by reducing sensitivities, “improving coping capacity” or through limiting greenhouse gas emissions (NRC, 2010, p.29). This essay will demonstrate that despite the fact that the Caribbean states are mostly developing nations, they are engaged in all three methods of reducing vulnerability, as has been defined by the NRC.

Hence, two major questions are addressed in the essay. The first one is how are Caribbean countries adapting to climate change? Since the vulnerabilities are very high in this specific geographical area it is vital that the policies implemented address this issue by attempting to simultaneously significantly decrease the sensitivities and increase their coping capacity which in turn would create effective adaptation policies (NRC, 2010 29). While the NRC addressed several types of sensitivities in their research, this essay will only focus on socio-economic sensitivities. The projects that will be analysed in this section will be of extensive geographical nature, including the participation of at least three countries at once.

The second question that will be addressed is how are Caribbean countries mitigating climate change? Although the Caribbean as a region is not responsible for much of the global levels of greenhouse gas emissions, it does have the potential to reduce its emissions, especially countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba. For other countries that are not producing high amounts of CO2 there is the opportunity to start integrating clean air technologies in their industries.

Before beginning, it is important to clarify that the definition of the ‘Caribbean’ varies depending on the perspective whether one is observing the states affected by a common Caribbean climate or by socio-economically linked nations that are predominantly within the Caribbean Sea for example. Since the focus is on Small Island States, the definition used will be as inclusive as possible to the states that fit this category within this region[1].



Before elaborating on the past and current adaptation efforts it would be useful to first understand how this region is vulnerable to climate change. In order to assess these vulnerabilities this section will look at eight vulnerabilities stated by the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007a) on Small Island States. These will be listed below and put in context with the situation in the Caribbean.

The first statement is that “small islands have characteristics which make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea-level rise and extreme events (very high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). Although it has been recognized by some that climate change has had an effect on the intensity of tropical cyclones, such as those presented during the notorious Caribbean hurricane season, there are still debates on whether or not these slight variations can be observed (IPCC Working Group II, 2007b, p.915; Pittock, 2008, p.16). Accordingly, Caribbean nations that are convinced that this is indeed occurring have called for a re-assessment of the current prediction modeling so it would require a “more extreme observational analyses” (Pittock, 2008, p.17).

Second, “sea-level rise is likely to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening the vital infrastructure that supports the socio-economic well-being of island communities (very high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). This means that it is essential for Caribbean islands to adopt adaptation policies that would increase building standards. It also means that these countries will also need to re-assess their urban planning especially with regards to population control since cities are expanding closer to the sea (Hillstorm, 2004, p.157-9). The closer cities and building get to the coast the more at risk they are at being destroyed.

Hence, it would be useful to apply works of academics such as Pielke and Sarewitz (2005) that contend that there is more “potential for economic damage” today than in the past because of societal change (p.259, 260). It could help us understand to what degree societal changes are threatening vital infrastructure of small islands states in the Caribbean.

However, if Hillstorm and Hillstorm (2004) are right about this vulnerability being a combination of societal changes and sea levels rising, then even a small increase in the sea level can have significant implications in the social, political and economic structures and ecosystems of this region (p.211). Therefore, there is a need to adapt and changing certain social trends may be the answer to this problem.

Third, “there is strong evidence that under most climate-change scenarios, water resources in small islands are likely to be seriously compromised (very high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). According to the research conducted by Roger S. Pulwarty PhD and Natalie Hutchinson (2008) in the Caribbean, there are increases in evaporation losses, increases in frequency of heavy rain (up 20% by 2050), increases in the length of dry season (up to 6-8% by 2050), decreases in length of rainy season (up 7-8% by 2050) and decreases in precipitation (p.4). This leads to two important problems. Firstly, there will be too much rain during certain periods, leading to flooding. Secondly, there will not be enough water in between those periods leading to drier seasons than usual.

Furthermore, because of their very limited surface water resources, many countries in the Caribbean rely heavily on groundwater that is at risks of being intruded by saltwater due to the rise in sea level and the increases coastal flooding (Rossing, 2010, p.38). This is the case for cities such as Bridgetown in Barbados, Havana in Cuba, Kingston and Montego in Jamaica, Nassau in the Bahamas and Port-au-Prince in Haiti (Rossing, 2010, p.39). So water management must be included in adaptation projects in order to address the various ways in which water resources will become compromised.

The fourth statement is “climate change is likely to heavily impact coral reefs, fisheries and other marine-based resources (high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). While it is true that the main cause of climate change, CO2 emission, are in part the cause to this particular issue, there is also the fact that many Caribbean states have a very high population density that pushes development closer to the coastline (Hillstorm, 2004, p.157-9). Consequently there is an increase in water pollution and there is also an increase in erosion and the destruction of natural habitats (Hillstorm, 2004, p.157-9; Pulwarty and Hutchinson, 2008, p.4). This specific problem also requires a change in societal behaviours, specifically urban population control. In addition to that, there should be rigorous monitoring of marine-based resources and strict regulations protecting them.

Fifth, “on some islands, especially those at higher latitudes, warming has already led to the replacement of some local species (high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). This is also related to the sea temperatures that are rising. Coral bleaching along human activities are endangering “Caribbean marine and biodiversity” (Burke et al., 2004).

Sixth, “it is very likely that subsistence and commercial agriculture on small islands will be adversely affected by climate change (high confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). With regards to food availabilities, the Caribbean is already affected by climate change in two different ways. Firstly, their agriculture is affected by changing temperatures and precipitations and secondly, they are affected by the rising prices in imported food from countries that have been negatively affected by climate change (Bueno et al., 2008, p.10). This means that the less these states can rely on their own food production either for subsistence or for exportation, the more dependent they become on importation.

Seventh, “new studies confirm previous findings that the effects of climate change on tourism are likely to be direct and indirect, and largely negative (high confidence) (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). The Caribbean is one of the most tourist dependent areas in the world with tourism accounting for 15 per cent of the total GDP of the area (Bueno at. al, 2008, p.9). Two countries in particular, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands depend the most on tourism with it being the dominant income of these countries (Bueno et al., 2008, p.15)

Eight, “there is growing concern that global climate change is likely to impact human health, mostly in adverse ways (medium confidence)” (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). According to some researchers, dengue fever and other “climate-sensitive” diseases will become increasing threat for all Caribbean islands as climate change increases the temperature in the region (Taylor et al., 2008, p.279-80). To be more specific, food, insect and rodent born diseases, such as diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and cholera, respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma and health issues related to malnutrition due to “a disturbances in food production and distribution” are all of concern in the Caribbean region (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p.701). This is not to mention the physical and non-viral threats from the increasing intensity of tropical storms that may cause injuries and death while also destroying health facilities (WHO, 2009, p.14). So the health sector will also need to be active in the adaptation projects that are taking place in Caribbean Small Island States.

Increasing Coping Capacity

Increasing coping capacity has been explained by the NRC (2010) as “the ability to avoid, prepare for, and respond to an impact so that it is not seriously disruptive” (p.29). Thus, coping capacity in this context would be to avoid the vulnerabilities listed above. Because this is an explicitly the goal of the adaptation projects discussed further; and because it would require technical knowledge on the measurements of coping capacity, the focus will instead be on which vulnerability within the list provided by the IPCC Working group II is being addressed in each project. These differ substantially and could give us insight in on which vulnerabilities are prioritized to cope with.

Human Sensitivities

Although there is a strong need to adapt to climate change in the Caribbean there are several factors that would make it difficult. As suggested by the Panel on Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change and the National Research Council (2010), adapting to climate change also requires societal changes since the vulnerabilities to “human systems” also derive from “nonclimatic conditions” (p.36). The non-climatic conditions discussed here are socio-economic.

Since the Caribbean region is in fact a developing region, one of the greatest obstacles identified is poverty (UN Statistics Division, 2011; UN DESA 2009 p.22). According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) (2009), poverty and risk related to climate change are closely linked (p.22). Thus, the socio-economic status of certain groups is significant in determining their sensitivities to climate change vulnerabilities.

According to Rossing and Rubin (2010), poorer people are more likely to live in risky areas such as on sloops where their houses have more chances of crumbling, like in Georgetown, Saint Vincent, and in valleys where their houses have a greater chance of being flooded, like in the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica (p.76). This is in part because poorer people have fewer options in choosing a place to settle due to other important factors, such as property prices, that outweigh the environmental risks attached to certain locations (Rossing & Rubin, 2010, p.76). This also means that there is a disparity of loss of “physical assets”[2] between the higher income groups and the lower income groups and especially between their ability to recover those assets (Rossing & Rubin, 2010, p.77, 83-4). This happens in two ways. Since people of lower economic status live in areas where they are more prone to losing “physical assets”, they are experiencing these losses more often. Also, they have less financial resources to recover the losses than people of higher economic status. These problems are all linked to vulnerabilities 1 and 2 on extreme whether events and sea level increases respectively. If these vulnerabilities are indeed accurate, they will both put these people more at risk physically and financially.

One of the physical risks includes health issues. It has been observed that in any region of the world, including the developing nations of the Caribbean, lower socioeconomic people are more infected by “water, soil and vector diseases” and other “climate-sensitive” diseases. (Taylor et al., 2008, p.279-280; WHO, 2009, p.18). This happens to be directly related to the 8th vulnerability that suggests that that climate change will increasingly have an adverse affect on human health.

In addition to people of low socio-economic status there is another group of people who are particularly sensitive to the 8th vulnerability on adverse health impacts – children. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2009), children in developing countries may account for up to 90% of those affected by diarrhoea and malaria (p.16). Furthermore diseases related to undernutrition mostly affects children under the age of 5 (WHO, 2009, p.16). As has been mentioned above, health issues related to malnutrition will increase due to “a disturbances in food production and distribution” which is also related to the 6th vulnerability on subsistence and commercial agriculture being at risk (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p.701). If the WHO’s assessment is correct, it is highly likely that those who will be the most affected are children.

Essentially, what has been demonstrated so far is that the burden will not be shared equally amongst all socio-economic groups or even members within them. This problem is rooted in the combination of socio-economic disparities and increasing vulnerabilities.

Reducing Human Sensitivities

Now it is important to determine how these sensitivities may be reduced. Clearly poverty increases the sensitivities. For that reason, poverty should be overcome by integrating sustainable development techniques into adaptation policies and projects. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) (2009), this may be done by including these four important sustainable development mechanisms: building a stronger system for economic distribution, ensuring easier access to resources, promoting more gender and social equality as well as more local participation in the decision-making process (p.22). These kinds of changes should increase the efficiency of adaptation policies by decreasing the sensitivities of different groups of people, specifically people of lower socio-economic status.

Since disparities between the rich and the poor is common in developing areas, especially in countries like Haiti and Jamaica the percentage of extremely vulnerable people is higher. Consequently, the incentive to integrating sensitivity-reducing mechanisms should be higher since it would mean protecting more people.

Therefore, in order to properly assess the regional projects that have been implemented thus far, these sensitivities along with the vulnerabilities will need to be taken into consideration. In the following section four extensive regional projects will be explored.


Climate change governance in the Caribbean on a regional scale is a fairly recent development with one of the first extensive adaptation projects beginning in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, these efforts have been constant. For the most part, funding for new projects is secured before the end of ongoing projects. Here, the details of these projects will be discussed in relation to the vulnerabilities and sensitivities discussed above.

Countries that participated in these projects are exclusively members of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM). To be more specific, the countries that participated in the first, second and third projects are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Before pursuing, it should be pointed out that two non Small Island State countries also participated in these projects – Belize and Guyana.

The Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC) Project

The CPACC is a project that was executed through the collaboration of the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Bank and a Regional Project Implementation Unit based in Barbados and while being under the supervision of the CARICOM (CCCCC, 2011b). The goal of this project was to increase capacity building for the adaptation of climate change in the Caribbean and its main targeted issue was the rise of sea levels.

This project’s timeframe was between 1997 and 2001 and consisted of two main types of projects. There were 4 regional projects that required the cooperation of all 12 participating countries and there were 5 pilot projects that involved no more than three Caribbean countries each (CARICOM Secretariat, 2011; CCCCC, 2011b). The regional initiative involved the following projects:

  1. Design and establishment of a sea level/climate monitoring network;
  2. Establishment of databases and information systems;
  3. Inventory of coastal resources; and
  4. Use and formulation of initial adaptation policies (CCCCC, 2011b).

The pilot projects included:

  1. Coral reef monitoring for climate change (Bahamas, Belize, and Jamaica);
  2. Coastal vulnerability and risk assessment (Barbados, Guyana, and Grenada);
  3. Economic valuation of coastal and marine resources (Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago);
  4. Formation of economic/regulatory proposals (Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis); and
  5. National communications (St Vincent and the Grenadines) (CCCCC, 2011b).

The outcome was that the CPACC project was very successful for the first of its kind in the Caribbean. Its main achievements derive from its focus that was largely based on two vulnerabilities, the rising sea levels and the threatened marine-based resources. The methods used, the sea-level and climate monitoring systems, are key to increasing coping capacities.

Furthermore, the CPACC was able to improve access and availability of data by establishing a sea level, climate and coral reef monitoring systems and protocols (CCCCC, 2011b). It also met countries needs for expanding vulnerability assessment, increasing their knowledge of climate change issues at the policy-making level and creating national climate change adaptation and implementation plans while creating a network for regional cooperation (CCCCC, 2011b). While this information was not easily accessible for people that were not directly involved in the project at the local level, it did set a basis on which other projects would be able to rely on in order to share their findings to all.

Because of these achievements, the project was able to secure another grant, but this time not from the World Bank that invested USD $5.6 million for its implantation, but from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that offered roughly half as much as the World Bank (CCCCC, 2011b). The grant would go towards a succeeding project that would have as an ultimate goal, to sustain the progress made by the CPACC.

Adaptation to Climate Change in the Caribbean (ACCC) Project

The ACCC Project was implemented from 2001 to 2004 (CCCCC, 2011a). This time both the World Bank and CARICOM took a step back. The former served only as an overseeing/ observing body to the project and the latter provided some support but was less involved in the conceptualization phase as it was for the CPACC project (CCCCC, 2011a).

Along with its goal to sustain the positive outcomes of the CPACC project, the ACCC also attempted to address other capacity building issues not undertaken in the CPACC and to improve those that had been (CCCCC, 2011a). Consequently, the nine general components of this project included strategies such as strengthening regional technical capacity that had already been established through the CPACC with the addition of new strategies to integrate climate change adaptation policies into physical national and regional environmental assessments and planning processes (CCCCC, 2011a).

One important achievement to mention is that the ACCC was able to introduce the water, health and agriculture and food sectors to the regional climate change adaptation policies by implementing pilot projects (CCCCC, 2011a). In doing so, it added vulnerabilities 3, 6 and 8 concerned with the compromised water resources, the threatened “subsistence and commercial agriculture” and the adverse health effects to the agenda (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). While this is sounds great, it is unclear how these sectors undertook the task of integrating climate change policies to their field or whether or not they took into consideration the other variables that increase sensitivities amongst certain groups. Nevertheless, their participation demonstrates an initiative to integrate climate change policies in other fields which would also increase the efficiency.

Another important point to make was that ACCC attempted to increase public awareness and participation by creating a regional public outreach and education strategy draft and by creating the first Climate Change Masters programme in a Caribbean Small Island State (CCCCC, 2011a). As mentioned earlier, increasing information is essential for reaching out to people of all socio-economic status to decrease sensitivities (UN DESA, 2009, p.22). Hence, the increase in public awareness was a great addition to the climate change policies at the time. Although the CPACC did not integrate any of the four sustainable development techniques, it did set the foundation for the ACCC project to be even more efficient through its creation a reliable standardized database and system.

Also, the ACCC project created a regional climate change center (CCCCC, 2011a). This has to be one of the greatest achievements of this project, and its predecessor, since the regional climate change center makes information on Caribbean climate change governance easily accessible to anyone with internet access. Moreover, the center facilitates regional cooperation by including representatives of five countries Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana, as well as three regional organisations, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Caribbean Insurance Organisation, along with the representation of the Petroleum Industry (CCCCC, 2011d). This center also provides services such as technical training and consultancy training which could help integrate climate change policies in the activities of the various organisations and businesses that seek their help (CCCCC, 2011d). Furthermore, trainings also give locals the tools needed to participate more in the decision making process. This is yet another way in which the ACCC has included one of the sustainable development techniques.

Finally, the ACCC initiated dialogue for collaboration with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Islands Climate Change Assistance Programme (PICCAP) (CCCCC, 2011a). Ironically, the SPREP and PICCAP collaboration will create several GSEII mitigation projects rather than adaptation projects. They will be discussed in Part II.

Like the CPACC, the ACCC was able to secure funding before it ended. It was a USD $5 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) before for the creation of yet another consecutive project (CCCCC, 2011a).

Mainstream Adaptation to Climate Change (MACC) Project

The MACC project was carried-out between 2004 and 2007. As opposed to the previous projects, this one had the in-kind participation of both the Canadian and American Governments (CCCCC, 2011c). The main purpose of the project was to integrate climate change adaptation strategies to sustainable development planning for “small island and low-laying states of CARICOM” (CCCCC, 2011c).

The MACC project was not only able to sustain these achievements of the previous projects but it was also able to build on all those efforts by improving “institutional capacity, strengthening the knowledge base, and deepening awareness and participation” (CCCCC, 2011c). It did this mostly by producing numerous free and accessible reports addressing five key themes: vulnerability and capacity assessments, national adaptation strategies, education and outreach, health, coral reefs and tourism (CCCCC, 2011c). For the most part, these themes were studied in different countries which gives a more realistic and representative analysis of issues pertaining to climate change in the Caribbean.

From project to project, sustainable development techniques became increasingly integrated in the adaptation policies. If the UN DESA (2009) research on climate change and sustainable development is correct, these improvements should be able to address some of the human sensitivities to climate change related to poverty (p.22).

In studying health issues, coral reefs, and tourism this project introduced vulnerabilities 4, 7 and 8 stated by the IPCC, on threatened marine-based resources, tourism and health (IPCC Working Group II, 2007a, p. 57). However, all the reports on tourism are focused on the issue in one country only, Barbados (CCCCC, 2011c).

Nonetheless, the project had an overall success especially in terms of integrating sustainable development techniques. As a consequence, it also managed to secure funding before it ended.

Special Program on Adaptation to Climate Change (SPACC) Project

            The last extensive adaptation project was the SPACC which was a four year project that lasted between February 2007 and January 2011 (CCCCC, 2011e). Like the MACC, the SPACC was financed by the GEF but with a smaller grant of USD $2.1 million USD (CCCCC, 2011e). The purpose of this project was to support only four countries, Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in integration of “pilot adaptation measures” regarding the impact of climate change on biodiversity and land degradation near and along coastal areas (CCCCC, 2011e). Clearly, the aim is to reduce the impacts of climate change in these areas but the benefits will overlap in other sectors, specifically in agriculture, fishery, forestry and tourism, which is also good for the economy and those who depend on these sectors to make a living (CCCCC, 2011e).

Another important aspect to mention about this project is that it has attempted to generate knowledge on how to replicate it not only in other Small Island States in the Caribbean but in other islands globally (CCCCC, 2011e).

So far, information regarding the SPACC’s outcomes has not been released. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine if it has been able to integrate sensitivity reducing mechanisms for people of low socio-economic status. Regardless of this shortcoming, it is easy to notice that the SPACC has addressed vulnerabilities 4 and 5 regarding marine-based resources and local species while indirectly addressing vulnerabilities 6 and 7 regarding agriculture and tourism.


While the purpose of this research is to focus on the governance of Small Island States governance of climate change since they are highly at risk, these projects have illustrated significant improvements in the Caribbean at large at increasing coping capacity. Both Small Island States and coastal countries benefited from these projects. In fact, two non-island states already did Belize and Guyana were two costal countries that participated in coral reef monitoring and costal vulnerability and risk assessment pilot projects amongst others (CCCCC, 2011b). Both projects introduced research that is geographically relevant for other countries in the region. Another example of how these projects have managed to increase its coping capacity regionally was seen in the CPACC, where they were able to establish sea level and climate monitoring systems that increased Caribbean states coping capacity by providing it with a basis of research in understanding current trends and predict future ones. The chart below serves as a quick review of these findings.


Increasing Coping Capacities
IPCC Vulnerabilities for Small Island States CPACC ACCC MACC SPACC
Extreme Weather Events        
Sea-Level Rise X      
Compromised Water Resources   X    
Threatened Marine-Based Resources X   X X
Threatened Local Species       X
Agriculture   X   X
Tourism     X X
Health   X X  


While these projects did not fully integrate sensitivity reducing sustainable development techniques, they did introduce them to Caribbean climate change adaptation governance. The first project did not address any of these techniques however the following projects did. Obviously, there is more than one way to determine if adaptation governance in this region is also seeking to reduce sensitivities. Hence, a superficial analysis based solely on the UN DESA (2009) approach, though enlightening, might seem deficient.

Nevertheless, the UN DESA has surprisingly been maintaining a Partnership for Sustainable Development for “Caribbean Adaptation to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise” since 2003 (UN DESA, 2004). The purpose of this partnership is to address themes that include climate change, sustainable development of SIDS and education and to integrate them “into ongoing programs and projects both nationally and regionally where appropriate” in the region (UN DESA, 2004). This happens to coincide with the ACCC project which is the second extensive regional adaptation project and the first to take into account the importance of providing easier access to information and encouraging local participation in the decision making process.

Clearly, the UN DESA has been able to integrate these themes into adaptation projects but it would be beneficial to systematically observe climate change policies of each country in relation to development policies in order to give a more accurate assessment of how Caribbean island states are reducing sensitivities through climate change projects and through sustainable development projects.


Reducing Sensitivities
Sustainable Development Techniques CPACC ACCC MACC SPACC
Stronger economic distribution system       N/A
Easier access to resources   X X N/A
Gender and social equality       N/A
Local participation in the decision-making process   X X N/A


Fortunately, there have been some great strives that have lead the path for such works. For example, with the creation of the first climate change center, resources on climate change have become a lot more accessible, thus, giving the opportunity for anyone to inform themselves and also encouraging further research in the field. The next step would be to integrate the ‘stronger economic distribution system’ and ‘gender and social equality’ techniques to future projects.

Although these projects have brought significant positive outcomes to the climate change agenda in the Caribbean in a short time frame, starting in 1997 and ending in January 2011, there are still some debates in terms of their significance and their ability to reduce Caribbean nation’s vulnerabilities mentioned in the above section. It is important to note that all these projects are voluntary. This of course has led to quite some criticism along with the fact that there are no legally binding agreements in the Caribbean to address the issue of climate change.



Before beginning, the reason why this analysis is important should be restated. As mentioned earlier, vulnerability, which is defined as “the capacity to be harmed”, may be reduced by reducing sensitivities, “improving coping capacity” or through limiting greenhouse gas emissions (NRC, 2010, p.29). Evidence in this paper suggests that the Caribbean is involved in all three methods of reducing vulnerabilities. Here, the reduction of greenhouse gas will be explored.

Although the Caribbean region does not emit as much CO2 as single countries such as the United States or China there are certain countries that emit significantly higher amounts than the overall average of the region. To put the Caribbean islands’ potential to reduce their CO2 emissions in context, some information regarding their current emissions levels will be briefly explained. The following assessment is based on data collected by Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center and made accessible by the World Bank (World Bank, 2011). The data provided does not go beyond 2007.

According to the data provided by the World Bank (2011)[3], between 2000 and 2007 inclusively the countries with the highest increase in CO2 emissions were the Turks and Caicos, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago with a percentage of increase at 90.67, 58.83, 42.97 and 33.81 respectively. While these numbers seem high, it should be noted that between 2000 and 2007 the average CO2 production in these countries, excluding Trinidad and Tobago, are below the average of all the islands in the Caribbean which also happens to be very low. Furthermore, these percentages are very high because these countries were producing minute amounts of CO2 in 2000 but in 2007 they were catching up with other islands. For example, the Turks and Caicos, which was still the lowest CO2 emitter in 2007 had gone from 14.7kt of CO2 in 2000 to 157.6kt in 2007. On a global scale, these amounts are virtually insignificant, however if the trend continues it would be good for countries like this to start integrating clean energy technologies into their industries.

highest CO2 Emitters (KT) CC Caribbean

Another interesting finding is that four countries constantly emit more CO2 emissions than the overall average. Those countries are Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica from 1998 to 2007, with Trinidad and Tobago taking over[4] from 2000 to 2007. Several factors might explain this One is that Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are visibly bigger in geographical size than other Caribbean islands. Another factor could be that they are more ‘industrialised’ or populated than other islands. The only obvious explanation for Trinidad and Tobago, the largest CO2 contributor, is that this country has an oil industry.

As has been demonstrated, most of the Small Island States in the Caribbean do not produce a lot of CO2, yet some still decided to participate in mitigation efforts. Two types of efforts will be discussed below.


International Organisations and National Governments

The projects analysed in this section are based on the involvement of an international organisation of which certain islands are members. Cooperation with international organisation or the use of international organisations through memberships has existed in the Caribbean and other ‘developing’ regions for decades; however it has a growing importance for sustainable development related to climate change mitigation in the Caribbean. Below, three projects of this sort will be briefly explained and analysed.

The Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII) was established by the Climate Institute and its partners (Khattak 2008, p.238). Its goal is to help members of the Alliance of Small Island States, some of which are Caribbean islands, to use cleaner and more sustainable energy (GSEII, 2010). Fortunately, three Caribbean states were able to secure very interesting projects that will ultimately help them reduce their CO2 emissions in the present and in the future.

To begin, St Kitts and Nevis are involved in a project that is attempting to simultaneously revive the sugar cane industry and to introduce alternative energy, sugar cane juice (Khattak 2008, p.239). , This project is a great way of stimulating the economy and reducing CO2 emissions. It is also benefits the environment by substituting fossil fuels.

Then, there are the very interesting projects that have been implemented in Dominca where compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs were promoted, the grid system was improved and micro-hydroelectric facilities were constructed (Khattak 2008, p.239). There are also fiscal incentives for this country’s participation.

Finally, the most elaborate GSEII project implementation is in Saint Lucia. This country promoted CFL bulbs as well and is now drafting plans for “a windfarm on the eastern side of the island; a power generation facility intended to burn methane gas captured from a large landfill; and exploration and development of Saint Lucia’s geothermal energy resources for power generation” (Khattak 2008, p239). Again, there are some very good economic incentives in participating.

One interesting point to make is that the alternative energy projects implemented in these countries will also allow them to become less dependent on Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela for oil and also reduce the cost of production which will help redistribute economic power in the region (Palmer, 2009, p.150). Furthermore, the participation of these countries in these projects allows them to increase energy efficiency at a much lower cost than if they had unilaterally taken the initiative. In this case the benefits overlap in different areas, the environmental and the economic at a low cost. It also facilitate development in the Caribbean.

Annex I Countries and Clean Development Mechanism

While some countries are increasing participation with international organisations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, others are accepting projects from Annex I countries through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Although other CDM projects exist outside the UN FCCC, those that are within it have clear mitigation objectives. Furthermore, the projects are subjected to strict monitored as opposed to some other CDM projects, thus making them more reliable sources for determining the roles of Caribbean Small Island States in mitigation governance.

The first country to be discussed is Jamaica, which has been identified above as being the 4th largest contributor of CO2 emissions in the Caribbean. The Wigton Wind Farm Project led by the Wigton Windfarm Ltd was launched by the Netherlands’ Corporación Andina de Fomento in 2004 (Nwaogwugwu, 2010, p.5; UNFCCC, 2006, p.2, 4). Its goal was to “implement the first commercial grid connected wind power plant in Jamaica” to reduce dependence on the current “fuel based electricity generating system” (UNFCCC, 2006, p.2). It anticipated a reduction of 52.42 kt of CO2 emission per year between 2004 and 2013 (UNFCCC, 2006, p.7). So far, the project seems to have upheld its promise. In 2010 it was announced that there would be two expansions Wigton Phase II in April 2011 and Wigton Phase III at a date to be announced (Laforteza, 2009). CO2 credit will also be sold from these expansions (Nwaogwugwu, 2010, p.6-7).

The 3rd largest CO2 emitter, the Dominican Republic, is involved in two CDM projects. The first of these projects is the El Guanillo wind farm in Dominican Republic project (UNFCCC, 2006c, p.2). This project was launched by Annex I country France and is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 123.916 kt yearly between 2010 and 2020 with the construction and operation of the first wind farm connected to the “National Grid System” in the Dominican Republic (UNFCC, 2006c, p.2, 9). The second project in this country, the Bionersis project on La Duquesa landfill, Dominican Republic project, anticipates a total reduction of 2,518.67 kt of CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2016 by building, operating and maintain “a landfill gas collection and flaring systems” (UNFCCC, 2010, p.7). In addition to this, the project will also contribute to sustainable development by creating jobs for locals, increasing awareness to environmental issues and by creating new local businesses (UNFCCC, 2010, p.10). This approach to CO2 mitigation is highly beneficial for it will also help in the adaptation process. If locals are more involved in climate change governance they will be more aware of their potential to decrease their own contribution and their own sensitivities to the eight vulnerabilities.

Two CDM projects are also taking place in Cuba which is the 2nd largest CO2 emitter in the Caribbean. The first one is the Energas Varadero Conversion from Open Cycle to Combined Cycle Project was launched on December 18 2006 by the Canadian and the British Sherritt International Corporations (UNFCCC, 2006c, p.2). The goal is to convert “an open cycle therma generation facility into a combined cycle facility” (UNFCCC, 2006c, p.2). It anticipates a reduction of 342.235 kt of CO2 per year between 2007 and 2014 (UNFCCC, 2006c, p.9). The second project is the “Mathane capture and destruction on Calle 100 landfill in Havana and Gascon landfill in Santiago de Cuba – Bundle CDM project” which was launched also launched by France (UNFCCC, 2009, p.3). The project, which will last between 2009 and 2019, estimates a reduction of approximately 111.966 kt of CO2 per year, with a total estimation of 1,231.623 kt of CO2 (UNFCCC, 2009, p.7).

As for the largest CO2 emitter, Trinidad and Tobago, has participated in one project so far that is registered with the World Bank. The Nariva ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration project and includes two different components. The first is “a small, successful pilot planting activity on 6 hectares” and the second is a “methane mitigation project” through restoration of surface hydrology” (World Bank, 2010, p.1). However, the overall progress rating has been moderate unsatisfactory so far (World Bank, 2010, p.1).


As we can see, mitigation projects are being implemented in spite of this geographical region’s contribution to the issue of climate change. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that these projects are not based on a regional agreement or on regional coordination in reducing CO2. These are individual countries accepting projects with external bodies whether they are organisations, states or businesses. Regardless of how they are reducing their emissions, these initiatives are all voluntary.

As we can see, it is unclear why certain countries in this region would want to decrease their already low emissions. This is the case for, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia that only contributed an average of 111.30, 106.11 and 353.04 kt of CO2 respectively between 2000 and 2007. However, it is good to see that all four largest contributors of CO2 are involved in CO2 mitigation projects.

What is important to keep in mind, is that regardless of these islands current contribution, and mitigation efforts, they still depend a lot on the global community. According to Bueno et al. (2008), the cost of global inaction in the Caribbean will result in a gross domestic product (GDP) loss of 21.7per cent for the entire Caribbean region by 2100, up to 75 per cent for Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Turks and Caicos Islands, 111.5 per cent for Grenada and 123.2 per cent for Haiti (Bueno et al., 2008, p.15). This research, based on loses in three different areas, “tourism losses”, “hurricane damages” and “infrastructure damages”, also estimated the total cost of global inaction in the Caribbean as being “$22 billion annually by 2050 and $46 billion by 2100” (Bueno et al., 2008, p.13). In short, the cost of global inaction, not regional inaction, is very high for this geographical area.

So if the Caribbean wants to avoid such catastrophic losses it will need the rest of the world to mitigate GHG emissions as well. In spite of the Caribbean’s growing concern of CO2 emissions and climate change as a whole, climate governance on a global scale is just as important if not more important than regional participation in mitigation.

Another conclusion that can be drawn from these projects has also been mentioned in, Khattak (2008) research demonstrated that the Caribbean will need the financial support of global organisations and developed countries to implement mitigation projects. Because the Caribbean does not emit significant amounts of CO2 it seems like there is a lot more to gain out of their participation with external bodies than to lose. In other words, if they do participate, they will be able to diversify their energy sources like in the Dominican Republic with the wind farms; they will also be able to stimulate their economy, like in Saint Kitts and Nevis with the sugar cane juice; and upgrade their grid system, like in Cuba with their combined cycle facility at very low cost. Moreover, it helps them save energy. If they do not participate, they continue to emit low levels of CO2 that are insignificant in comparison to larger states like the United States.


To conclude, Caribbean Small Island States have indeed been involved in both adaptation and mitigation projects. However, on an extensive regional level, which was the level or interest for this research; these states seem to be focusing much more on adaptation rather than on mitigation. In doing so, it is focusing on the immediate vulnerabilities of climate change that have been summarised by the IPCC Working Group II.

In terms of adaptation policies, the region has a much more coherent plan since its states have been involved in major consecutive adaptation projects since 1997 which required regional coordination and cooperation. Furthermore, those projects did indeed integrate human sensitivity reducing mechanisms with the help of UN DESA while increasing coping capacity regionally.

In contrast, the mitigation policies that have been undertaken do not require any coordination or cooperation between the participating states. Decisions are made between the state and the external body alone. However, it seems like the countries that are the highest emitters, along with some of the lowest emitters, are in fact reducing their CO2 emissions.

Therefore, this essay has shed some light on the types of projects that are being implemented by each state. Some countries have chosen to adopt adaptation policies alone, and others have decided to focus on adaptation and mitigation policies. While it would be very enlightening to understand why certain countries choose one over the other, it is also very difficult to determine which because of the multitude of factors that must be taken into consideration. For that reason, this research cannot come to such conclusions. Nevertheless, the chart below gives a quick snapshot of the current policy orientation of the countries observed.


Caribbean Island States’ Climate Change Policy Choice
States Projects States Projects
Adaptation Mitigation Adaptation Mitigation
Anguilla     Haiti    
Antigua and Barbuda X   Jamaica X X
Aruba     Martinique    
Bahamas X   Montserrat    
Barbados X   Netherlands Antilles    
Belize X   Puerto Rico    
Bermuda     Saint Kitts and Nevis X X
Cayman Islands     Saint Lucia X X
Cuba   X Saint Vincent & the Grenadines X  
Dominica X X Suriname    
Dominican Republic   X Trinidad and Tobago X X
Grenada X   Turks and Caicos Islands    
Guadeloupe     Virgin Islands (U.K.)    
Guyana X   Virgin Islands (U.S.)    


What can be drawn from this chart is that the country that is the most poor, Haiti, does not seem to be involved in any of the projects discussed. Yet, Haiti has a much larger population that is sensitive to climate change than the more wealthy countries with smaller economic disparities. This chart also highlights the difficulty in measuring the level of involvements. While it might seem like Trinidad and Tobago are equally involved in climate change adaptation and mitigation, its involvement in the latter is minimal.

Hence, there is still a lot of work that must be done in order to understand exactly how Caribbean Small Island States are governing climate change. To start, there is still a lack of data concerning the CO2 emissions of several Caribbean nations notably, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands and the United States Virgin Islands. Data from these countries could considerably change the results and could provide a better insight into the reasons why some Caribbean countries implement climate change mitigation policies and others do not.

Once some of that data is filled in, there should also be a systematic research of climate change policies undertaken by each Caribbean island on a national level in relation to the development policies. This would provide us with a better idea of how integrated the two types of policies are to one another and where and how improvement can be made.

Because there is not a lot of easily accessible information on this topic, there are also many opportunities to be exploited. Hopefully, the new Climate Change MSc at the University of West Indies will help produce such literature.


Annex 1

 Annex 1 CC Caribbean


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Burke, Lauretta, Jon Maidens and contributing authors: Mark Spalding, Philip Kramer, Edmund Green, Suzie Greenhalgh, Hillary Nobles, Jonathan Kool. (2004). Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean. World Resources Institute. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). (2011a). Adaptation to Climate Change in the Caribbean Project (ACCC). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). (2011b). Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change Project (CPACC). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). (2011c). Mainstreaming and Adaptation to Climate Change (MACC). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). (2011d). Services. Retrieved March 5, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC). (2011e). Special Program on Adaptation to Climate Change (SPACC). Retrieved March 16, 2011, from:

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat (2011).Retrieved March 16, 2011, from:

Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII). (2004). About GSEII. Retrieved April, 19, 2011, from:

Hillstrom, Keven & Laurie Collier Hillstrom. (2004). Latin America and the Caribbean: a Continental Overview of Environmental Issues. California: Oxford.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II. (2007a). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Geneva: United Nations Environment Programme.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II. (2007b). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Geneva: United Nations Environment Programme.

Khattak, Nasir. (2008). Climate Impacts in the Developing world: A Case Study of the Small Island States. MacCracken, C. Michael, Frances Moore and John C. Topping, Jr.(Eds), Sudden and Disruptive Climate Change: Exploring the Real Risks and How We Can Avoid Them (pp. 237-246). London: Earthscan.

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Laforteza, Natassia Y. (July 10, 2009). Wigton Farm’s 18-MW Expansion Due in April 2010. EcoSeed Bridging Environment and Economy. Retrieved April 11, 2011 from:

National Research Council (NRC). (2010). Adapting to the Impact of Climate Change. The National Academies Press: Washington. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from:

Nwaogwugwu, Chinyere. (2010). Carbon Emission Trading for the Caribbean: Trading Offsets – a Caribbean Tale. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from:

Palmer, W. Ransford. (2009). The Caribbean Economy in the Age of Globalization. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pielke, Roger A. Jr. & Daniel Sarewitz. (2005, January). Bringing Society Back into the Climate Debate. Population and Environment. Vol. 26, No. 3. Pp.255-268.

Pittock, A. Berrie. (2008). Ten Reasons Why Climate Change May be More Severe than Projected. MacCracken, C. Michael, Frances Moore and John C. Topping, Jr. (Eds), Sudden and Disruptive Climate Change: Exploring the Real Risks and How We Can Avoid Them (pp. 11-27). London: Earthscan.

Pulwarty & Hutchinson. (2008). Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment Methodology: A guidance manual for the conduct and mainstreaming of climate change vulnerability and capacity assessments in the Caribbean Region. Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Belmopan, Belize.

Rossing, Tine. (2010). Water Scarcity, Climate Change, and the Poor. Dorte Verne (Ed), Reducing Poverty, Protecting Livelihoods and Building Assets in a Changing Climate: Social Implications of Climate Change for Latin America and the Caribbean (pp.21-62). Washington DC: World Bank.

Rossing, Tine & Olivier Rubin. (2010). Climate Change, Disaster Hot Spots, and Asset Erosion. Dorte Verne (Ed), Reducing Poverty, Protecting Livelihoods and Building Assets in a Changing Climate: Social Implications of Climate Change for Latin America and the Caribbean (pp. 63-91). Washington DC: World Bank.

Tylor, Michael A., Anthony Chen, Samuel Rawlins, Charmaine Heslop-Thomas, Dharmaratne Amarakoon, Wilma Baily, Dave D. Chadee, Sherine Huntley, Cassandra Rhoden & Roxanne Stennett. (2008). Adapting to Dengue Risk in the Caribbean. Leary, Neil, James Adejuwon, Vincent Barros, Ian Burton, Jyoti Kulkarni & Rodel Lasco (Eds), Climate Change and Adaptation (pp.279-294). London: Earthscan.

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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2006b). Clean Development Mechanism Project Design Document Form (CDM PDD) – Version 02: Wigton Wind Farm Project (WWF). Retrieved April 11, 2011, from:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2006c). Clean Development Mechanism Project Design Document Form (CDM PDD) – Version 03: Title of Project Activity: Engras Varadero Conversion from Open Cycle to Combined Cycle Project. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2009). Clean Development Mechanism Project Design Document Form (CDM PDD) – Version 03: Methane capture and destruction on Calle 100 landfill in Havana and Gascon landfill in Santiago de Cuba – Bundle CDM project. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2010). Clean Development Mechanism Project Design Document Form (CDM PDD) – Version 03: Bionersis project on La Duquesa landfill, Dominican Republic. Retrieved April 12, 2011, from:

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[1] For a complete list of countries studied in this research look at Annex 1.

[2] The authors define “physical assets” as such “[…] productive assets such as land, tools, equipment, and work animals, and household assets such as housing and household services or stocks, such as livestock, food, and jewelry. The term also denots the basic infrastructure for transport, buildings, communications, and so on”(Rossing and Rubin 2010, p.83)

[3] See Annex 1

[4] Data for Trinidad and Tobago starts at 2000 only. It is highly plausible that this country had higher levels of CO2 than other countries in the region before 2000.

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