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At the 74th United Nations General Assembly, five countries — Bolivia, Jamaica, Uruguay, Saint Kitts and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — ratified the Escazú Agreement, an historic treaty that guarantees environmental rights in the region, provides special protections for environmental human rights defenders and ensures people can play a part in the decision-making necessary to address climate change.

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Most of the Caribbean's sewage spews into the sea untreated, bringing with it pollutants like nutrients, fecal matter, oil and more. Part of the reason is that Caribbean governments lack data on how wastewater pollution affects ecosystems and human health, or what realistic solutions exist.

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More than 80 percent of the Caribbean's wastewater enters the ocean untreated, spurring the growth of algae on coral reefs and increasing the risk of infections for swimmers, among other issues. While many have been aware of this problem in Tobago for more than 20 years, there's been little government action.

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Between 2001 and 2012, Latin America and the Caribbean lost 36 million hectares of forest and grassland to agricultural expansion, and nearly half of the region's greenhouse gas emissions are the result of land-use change, forestry, and agriculture. So there’s a clear solution to curbing climate change in the LAC region—restore life to its degraded landscapes.

That's where Initiative 20x20 comes in.

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Governments, businesses, development agencies, and NGOs are increasingly turning to economic valuation as a way to protect coral reefs and mangroves. This process makes the economic case for protection and sustainable use of natural resources by showing the monetary, employment, and infrastructure benefits ecosystems provide—metrics that are easily understood by decision-makers.

But not all economic valuations are created equal. WRI's new guidebook shows how NGOs and other stakeholders can conduct economic valuations in ways that lead to real change on the ground.

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Tropical coastal ecosystems—including coral reefs, mangroves, beaches, and seagrasses—provide a range of valuable goods and services to people and economies across the Caribbean. These ecosystems contribute to tourism, fisheries, shoreline protection, and more.

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Roughly 75 percent of the Caribbean's coral reefs are threatened--with more than 30 percent ranking in the "high" or "very high" threat category. But one reef system in Cuba, Jardines de la Reina (the "Gardens of the Queen"), offers great lessons—and hope—for effective coral reef management.

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