OECS member states have comimitted to positioning themselves to recognise the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Agenda, especially in agriculture. The OECS Commission also demonstrated continued dedication to climate action in tourism last week.
On December 5, 2023, the OECS Commission participated in the UN World Tourism Organization’s COP28 panel event themed Tourism United for Climate Action: Delivering on the Commitments of the Glasgow Declaration. Panelist, Mr. Crispin D'Auvergne, OECS Programme Director for Climate Change in Environment Sustainability, delivered an update on the region’s work towards its commitments.
The OECS Commission is a supporting organisation signatory of the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism which was launched in November 2021 at COP26. Signatories of the Declaration committed to unite stakeholders in “transforming tourism to deliver effective climate action”. The Declaration is designed for signatories to rebalance their relationship with nature, and in the Eastern Caribbean, this widely includes tourism, which heavily relies on biodiversity and natural ecosystems. The OECS is one of the most tourism-reliant regions in the world making its livelihood highly climate vulnerable. The OECS Commission plays a key role in advocacy.
The Declaration was signed without hesitation in 2021 as it conforms with the ambitions and action plans already in place in the OECS Member States. Mr. D'Auvergne provided several updates on the Commission's progress regarding the Glasgow Declaration and reemphasised the OECS' commitment. In July 2022, the OECS Council of Ministers: Tourism (COMT), mandated that national tourism portfolios be aligned with their counterpart ministries or departments of environment. The COMT also encouraged Tourism Sector Adaptation Plans for each Member State. In March 2023, the OECS hosted a Joint Senior Technical Officials Meeting of Tourism and Environment to determine a collaborative approach.
The OECS Commission is currently undertaking a review and update of the existing 2011 OECS Common Tourism Policy towards the development of the OECS Sustainable Tourism Policy. This new version seeks to develop a comprehensive and pragmatic policy that supports competitiveness, balanced growth, and sustainability.
The OECS has also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with The Travel Foundation signalling a partnership that seeks to implement collaborative sustainable tourism activities and initiatives including climate action in tourism. Collaborative work scoped for 2024 includes a Member States Needs Analysis related to climate action and tourism with a focus on the identification of barriers and potential solutions, capacity gaps, and opportunities for collective action. A joint ministerial meeting for tourism and environment is also being planned for later in 2024 to review the outcome.
The OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules expressed the importance of the UNWTO panel at COP28,
“This event provides us with the opportunity to take stock of our Glasgow Declaration commitments. We have been challenged by limited financial resources to hasten the pace at which we progress, but our commitment is unwavering. Through collaboration with key partners such as the Travel Foundation, with whom we signed an MOU this year, we expect to advance the cause and the ambitions of our Member States."