Greening key economic sectors is a key pathway to an inclusive and green economy. In the Caribbean, key sectors for greening include agriculture, construction, energy, fisheries, manufacturing, tourism, transportation, and water. Strong leadership is needed by governments as enablers, champions and consumers driving greening of these sectors. But even while sectors become more environmentally sustainable, difficult issues of social equity and inclusiveness must be at the core of the transformation. ‘Greening’ must spread economic opportunities to the poor and marginalised even as environmental sustainability is enhanced.
“By the most simplistic definition, a green economy is one that is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. It aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment. At the heart of the green economy is the concept that wealth and economic stability must not come at the cost of environmental degradation, ecological destruction and social inequality.” – The Honourable Daryl Vaz, Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation of the Government of Jamaica in the Foreword to the Green Economy Scoping Study for Jamaica (UNEP, 2016)
But even if the Minister considers this a simplistic definition, the pathways to achieving an inclusive green economy in the Caribbean are certainly far from simple and strong leadership is needed by our governments. One pathway is via “greening” key economic sectors. Recent studies conducted in Barbados, Jamaica and Saint Lucia examined opportunities for diverse sectors ranging across agriculture, construction, energy, fisheries, manufacturing, tourism, transportation, and water. These sectors are major foreign exchange earners, account for significant proportions of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are large consumers of natural resources (water, energy and land) and provide critical services (food, energy, water).
The Jamaica study as well as the Green Economy Scoping Study for Saint Lucia (UNEP, 2016) and the Green Economy Scoping Study for Barbados (UNEP, 2012) presented recommendations for a green economy roadmap for the countries. These included important roles for governments in encouraging investment, building public-private partnerships, developing enabling polices and regulations, providing financial incentives, supporting innovation, and providing or facilitating capacity building (including in new technologies).
The Caribbean Green Economy Action Learning Group (GE ALG) discussed the Jamaica and Saint Lucia studies at a CANARI webinar with presentations by the lead authors of the studies, Dr. Michael Witter and Dr. Keron Niles, who are also members of the GE ALG. They emphasised the importance of the leadership of governments as enablers and champions of greening sectors but also their important role as often the largest consumers in our Caribbean islands. Dr. Niles noted that “Sometimes the cheapest is not green. That’s why the state needs to be a leader.” Governments need to ensure that their procurement policies support purchase of goods and services that are more environmentally sustainable and spread economic opportunities (for example by supporting local small and micro enterprises or providing decent work for poor people). Governments need to become leaders in the new ‘green markets’ that are emerging where consumers, both tourists and locals, are driving greening of sectors through their support for products and services that are environmentally sustainable and spread economic opportunities, appreciating that higher up-front costs may lead to longer-term savings and/or reduction of negative externalities (for example costs due to environmental damage or resource depletion).
Private sector interest is also growing in response to consumer demand and with growing recognition that investments in green technologies can help to increase resource efficiencies and lower cost. Dr. Keron Niles notes that changing business models is key and “sometimes it doesn’t mean abandoning what you are doing but just doing it in a different way.” As green technologies become increasingly available and affordable, governments also need to ensure that they develop enabling fiscal and regulatory arrangements to support the transformation of economic sectors.
The Green Economy Coalition, of which CANARI is a member, calls greening sectors the “new industrial revolution” and notes that “the markets of the future are already here.” Their Green Economy Barometer 2017 highlights tremendous advances being made globally in the “green revolution” and shifting to clean and green markets. The Caribbean needs to take advantage of the opportunities that greening key sectors provide, for example in attracting consumers committed to environmentally and socially responsible tourism, saving on foreign exchange as we switch to locally produced renewable energy, and enhancing our food security as we promote local agriculture.
Small and isolated initiatives are already being seen contributing to greening sectors in the Caribbean, for example in more sustainable agricultural production and green buildings that are more resource efficient. But analysis by the GE ALG concludes that much more needs to be done by governments in terms of: developing fiscal policies that remove negative subsidies and create tax and other incentives; strengthening and applying regulations, codes and standards; supporting research and innovation; providing capacity building including access to resources; and facilitating knowledge exchange among businesses.
But Dr. Michael Witter cautions that even while sectors become more environmentally sustainable, difficult issues of social equity and inclusiveness must be at the core of the transformation. We must ensure that the needs of poor and vulnerable are addressed through opportunities for decent work and entrepreneurship and that Caribbean small and micro enterprises are protected and developed (see associated blog on local green enterprises). Economic opportunities need to be provided for poor people, informal workers and marginalised communities.
Dr. Witter also calls for governments to “intensify (their) efforts toward joined-up government that takes a holistic approach to policy issues with agencies and institutions that are more agile and responsive to the challenges of adjustment.” Caribbean governments are challenged to lead this fundamental transformation to an inclusive green economy and to take new integrated approaches to development that cut across sectoral approaches and are sustained as leadership changes between political parties.
For more information on CANARI’s work with the Caribbean Green Economy Action Learning Group (GE ALG) and the Green Economy Coalition (GEC) on greening sectors see:
• CANARI’s #GE4U: Transformation towards an inclusive green economy in the Caribbean project
• The GEC’s vision and brief on greening economic sectors
CANARI is implementing the #GE4U project as part of the global project Creating enabling policy conditions for the transformation towards an inclusive green economy being funded by the European Commission and managed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) on behalf of the Green Economy Coalition (GEC). This blog has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents are the sole responsibility of CANARI and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
Tags: Green economy, #GE4U, #GEVoices