Defending Paradise: Caribbean Governments, Global Corporations, and Partners Commit $64 million and Immediate Action to Protect the Environment and Accelerate Renewable Energy


In a joint effort to safeguard and bolster the Caribbean region’s tourism-dependent economy, fifteen Caribbean governments and seventeen corporations met on Necker Island, home of Sir Richard Branson, in the British Virgin Islands this weekend and made a series of bold commitments to preserve and protect the region’s marine and coastal environment, and accelerate efforts to transition to renewable energy.

Sir Richard Branson speaks at the gathering in his home.

Sir Richard Branson speaks at the gathering in his home.


“Protecting and harnessing the natural world is the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. “The energy challenge and marine conservation challenge in the Caribbean go hand-in-hand: we can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy environment, nor a healthy environment without a healthy economy.”


These commitments included approximately $64 million in funding to support marine and coastal conservation, along with commitments to take new actions and to put in place more sustainable business practices.


The event, launching the second phase of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), was co-hosted by Dr. the Right Honourable Keith C. Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. The event’s sponsoring partner was Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and the event was organized by The Nature Conservancy, with support from Virgin Unite, the non-profit entrepreneurial foundation of the Virgin Group, and the Carbon War Room.


“We are honored to be part of such a historic event, and we applaud our fellow Caribbean nations participating in this Summit,” said Prime Minister Dr. the Right Honourable Keith C. Mitchell of Grenada. “We are charting a path for future generations, stressing the importance of conservation throughout the region.”


The high-level dialogue resulted in consensus on the utmost importance of working together – as a region and across sectors – to tackle the pressing and interlinked issues of marine and coastal conservation, renewable energy and economic development. The specific areas for further work include:


  • The urgent need to create protection for sharks and rays across the whole Caribbean region with the aim of creating a region-wide sanctuary within two years.
  • Establishing a clear regulatory framework that delivers a systemic and regional approach to conservation of the marine and coastal environment, including increasing considerably the number of marine protected areas.
  • A dramatic acceleration in the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources over the next five years. This will be supported by the sharing of best practices, scaling of new technologies, and streamlining of regulatory processes applicable to renewable energy.

 a section of the audience

“The Caribbean is truly a paradise under threat, and today’s focus is a critical step toward a brighter future. Governments and their people, companies and their consumers, and local communities all must work together to protect this beautiful region,” said Glenn Prickett, Chief External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy. “This event has demonstrated that no longer is protecting nature viewed as a luxury, it is critical to the success of the region’s economy.”


Commitments announced at the Summit by individual governments to support these efforts included:


  • The Bahamas: Establishment of a national trust fund to protect biodiversity, and recent declaration of six marine protected areas, with a pledge by the Government to further expand the system of marine reserves.
  • The British Virgin Islands: Adoption of a Protected Areas System Plan which calls for 33 percent of the marine and coastal environment to be protected.
  • Jamaica: Establishment of a network of 14 fish sanctuaries.
  • Puerto Rico: A commitment to double the number of protected areas.
  • Grenada: Reaffirmation of a previous commitment to protect 25 percent of Grenada’s marine and coastal environment.
  • Belize: Protection of 30 percent of Belize’s marine and coastal environment, with over 10 percent designated as no-take fishing zones.
  • Download a complete listing of commitments.


A number of corporations also pledged support to protect the Caribbean’s marine and coastal environment, including:


  • Adam Stewart of Sandals Foundation pledged US $1.5 million to support marine conservation and coastal livelihoods in the Caribbean.
  • A US $500,000 commitment from Mr. Kristopher Lofgren from Bamboo Sushi, who hopes to open as many as five new restaurants in the Caribbean and dedicate some of the profits to support the Caribbean Challenge Initiative.
  • Charles Taylor from Hublot committed to fund the establishment of several coral reef nurseries, as well as serve as the “official timekeeper” for the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. Hublot is also releasing a Hublot Limited Edition watch, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to generate funding for new conservation.
  • David Crane of NRG Energy committed to expanding solar energy in the Caribbean, with projects already planned in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas and existing projects in Haiti.
  • The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has granted the Conservancy US $350,000 for a youth education program about nature.
  • Virgin Unite pledged continued support for the CCI process along with US $100k to support the uptake of renewable energy in the region. As a first step, Virgin Unite, together with the Clinton foundation and the Carbon War Room will undertake a feasibility study for Haiti.


Commitments announced at the Summit by government funding agencies and non-governmental organizations:


  • Germany: Nearly US $50 million for marine conservation, including US $26 million for the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund.
  • The Nature Conservancy: US $8 million for the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund.
  • United Kingdom: US $3 million for the C-FISH initiative in the Caribbean to improve the management of marine protected areas, provide sustainable livelihoods for local communities and improve their resilience to climate change.
  • World Bank: Efforts are underway to mobilize large-scale funding within the next year or two, to support the Caribbean’s marine and coastal environment through the Global Partnership on Oceans (GPO) Fund being led by The World Bank.


In addition to these commitments, in one of the highlights of the Summit, The Nature Conservancy and GOOD – together with Tiffany & Co., Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ltd, KOR Water and Guy Harvey Sportswear – launched the Defend Paradise campaign. This campaign is a consumer-based initiative designed to generate funding for marine conservation in the Caribbean and raise consumer awareness of the marine environment. Defend Paradise will generate support by selling co-branded products, providing exclusive discounts and raising awareness through experiential marketing that brings the natural beauty of the Caribbean to life for those who are unable to visit.


Video footage from the Caribbean Summit can be found on The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube Channel and photos can be found on the Conservancy’sFlickr page.