The Caribbean Green Economy Conference 2013

 

Green Economy as a Vehicle for
Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication in the Caribbean
4-6 June 2013
Saint Lucia

 

CONFERENCE CONCEPT

 

Background

To advance thinking and action on green economy in the Caribbean region, the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Environment and Sustainable Development, endorsed the concept note on “Advancing Caribbean States’ Sustainable Development Agenda through Green Economy Policies”, in its Thirty-Seventh Special Meeting held in September 2011. In the same meeting, Caribbean countries agreed that UNEP’s assistance and lead was required in developing a green economy initiative in close collaboration with the Caribbean Community Secretariat and its member states, with inputs from relevant regional and international organizations.

The call for green economy transformation in the region is also voiced by other regional institutions that recognize myriad challenges the Caribbean region faces in economic, social and environmental spheres. Later on, the outcome document of Rio+20, The future we want, considered the green economy as an important tool for achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication and asked the UN system to provide toolboxes, methodologies, best practices, and platforms to interested countries to support the transition to such a green economy.

In the Caribbean, green economy offers opportunities to address the particular development challenges being faced by the region. The international financial crisis has resulted in significant loss of GDP to several Caribbean countries, which has caused, inter alia, growing unemployment and shrinking of many economic sectors including tourism. At the same time, the region is affected by environmental challenges, such as sea-level rise, degradation of coral reefs and unsustainable resource use. The economic cost of these environmental challenges is high and constantly growing. Furthermore, the limited diversification of the countries’ economies, narrowness of output and exports, openness to and dependency on trade, limited resource-base and small population, small market and small geographical size, makes them comparatively more vulnerable to unstable and unpredictable global economic and climatic situations. Price volatility is especially a notable risk for the food and energy security in the Caribbean.

The Government of Saint Lucia and UNEP are thankful for the financial support offered by the European Union for this conference and the Caribbean Green Economy Initiative.

The Caribbean Green Economy Initiative

In order to support the Caribbean countries achieving their national goals of sustainable development and poverty reduction through green economy, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with CARICOM and with the financial support of European Commission, is implementing a Caribbean Green Economy Initiative (CGEI). The initiative, formally entitled “Advancing Caribbean States’ Sustainable Development through Green Economy” provides direct technical assistance to three pilot countries in the region and capacity building support to the whole region.

The Caribbean Green Economy Conference 2013

The conference “Green Economy as a Vehicle for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication in the Caribbean” was the first regional event under the CGEI and was hosted jointly by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science & Technology of Saint Lucia and UNEP. By bringing together policymakers, civil society, academia and the private sector, it provided an opportunity for cross fertilization of ideas, experiences and institutional innovations, combined with capacity building and networking. It also offered opportunities to discuss options and opportunities that the green economy approach presents to address challenges being faced by the region and to develop a framework for the way forward.

The conference enabled the creation of a regional green economy network as a living platform for sharing national experiences and further strengthening intra-Caribbean and intra-SIDS cooperation in the area of green economy. This network is expected to connect a vibrant community of policy makers, practitioners and thinkers who are focused on achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development through green economy.

Key issues

The conference, inter alia, discussed the following major issues:
  1. Economic, social and environmental challenges being faced by the Caribbean Region;
  2. Options and opportunities that the green economy approach offers to address these challenges;
  3. Green economy experiences from the region and beyond;
  4. Available tools and approaches to develop national policies which are based on solid economic and scientific knowledge;
  5. Capacity building and technical assistance needs of the region to advance mainstreaming of green economy thinking in national planning processes;
  6. Ways and means of strengthening and supporting intra-Caribbean and intra-SIDS cooperation on green economy.

 

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

High-level session

The conference started with a high level session with statements and speeches by the attending Ministers and decision makers. The dignitaries shared their perspectives and visions for addressing poverty and development challenges of the Caribbean region including through green economy strategies. The session set the strategic direction for the conference and the Caribbean Green Economy Initiative by identifying building blocks for a Caribbean Green Economy agenda. It also provided guidance on policy and capacity building needs of the region and the best ways to deliver this support most effectively.

Caribbean challenges, Caribbean realities

Given the unique socio-demographic and geo-environmental realities of the Caribbean, a green economy agenda for the region must be tailored taking into account these realities. Presentations and discussions in this highlighted the ecological roots of the most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges being faced by the region.

Green Economy: what is there for the Caribbean region?

The session discussed how a green economy agenda, founded on the Caribbean realities can help address key challenges being faced by the region. This discussion focused on how a green economy approach can lead to creating more and better jobs, higher level of prosperity for all, realization of trade opportunities and building the foundation for long term sustainability of economic development.

Caribbean experiences with green economy policies and practices

Some Caribbean countries have established replicable models for green economy policies and practices. In this session, countries shared their experiences with green economy and highlight best practices and lessons learned. The discussion focused on how to replicate and scale up successful experiences.

Overview of internationally available green economy tools and approaches

A number of tools and approaches are available at the international and national levels. Techniques used for green economy assessments such as quantitative assessments through system dynamics modelling, or assessing the green jobs potential. The session showcased the work that is currently being undertaken by various organisations with regard to indicators that go beyond GDP to measure accomplishment of economic, social and environmental objectives. Country needs were identified, and participants provided their experiences in this area. The session offered an opportunity to discuss the suitability of different approaches and tools for green economy work in the Caribbean region.

Key drivers for economic growth in the Caribbean: merging growth and sustainability

Given the relative homogeneity of Caribbean economies, a number of sectors that have high potential for guiding a green economy transition can be easily identified. Tourism and agriculture are two examples of key drivers for economic growth in many Caribbean countries, given their numerous linkages with other economic sectors, but also manufacturing and mining are worth including. The experiences from different Caribbean countries and sectoral organisations guided the discussion. The benefits and the gains in sector efficiency, which derive from a green economy transformation in Caribbean key sectors, were illustrated during this session.

Green Economy Pathways for the Caribbean

In this session, options and opportunities for a Caribbean pathway to a green economy were discussed. More specifically, the session did:

  1. Explore approaches to defining a regional green economy agenda.
  2. Discuss the complementaries between green economy and post 2015 agenda for the Caribbean.
  3. Collect perspectives on how a regional green economy knowledge and networking platform could be shaped.
  4. Identify capacity building and technical assistance needs for advancing green economy in the region, and
  5. Brainstorm on support and strengthening a regional research and policy think tank on green economy.

Format

Deliberations were carried out in the form of interactive discussions and were preceded by keynote speeches and presentations. The conference was held in English. The resources did not allow offering translation into other languages.