Caribbean startups tackle climate change

Mar 14, 2016, 6:14 PM EDT
The Caribbean.
(Source: Danielle/flickr)

The Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) is placing its hopes in local startups. CEO Everton Hanson was quoted on Monday by Jamaica Infomation Service: "The purpose of this project is to build an entrepreneurial eco system that will foster growth-oriented entrepreneurs and profitable businesses that address climate change mitigation and adaptation."

The Caribbean chapter is one of 7 climate innovation centers set up in developing countries around the world under the World Bank’s Climate Technology Program.  The CCIC is jointly managed by the Jamaica-based Scientific Research Council and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, which is located in Trinidad and Tobago. The program emphasizes the need for a unified response to developing climate change solutions, and has set up hubs in 12 other Caribbean countries.

According to The Jamaica Information Service, the CCIC model was developed in collaboration with local stakeholders and addresses the gaps across five priority areas: solar energy, water management, sustainable agribusiness, resource use and efficiency, and energy efficiency. The organization helps budding entrepreneurs at all stages, from mentoring and networking to concept design, market research, bringing products to commercialization, and business incubation.

For example, the CCIC’s Proof of Concept competition held last year invited Caribbean innovators to present designs for products that could be transformed into viable businesses. Over 300 innovators from 13 Caribbean countries applied for grant funding through the competition, with 11 selected for grants ranging from $10,000-$50,000. The winning ideas included microalgae-produced biofuels, small-scale rural water desalination systems, animal feed produced by vertical farming, indoor solar lighting, sustainable paper products, increased recycling, and others.

More recently, the CCIC hub in Jamaica hosted the Caribbean Green Tech Start up Boot camp from February 26-28. The interactive 3-day workshops drew over 70 innovators and entrepreneurs from across the Caribbean, challenging them to refine their concepts and transform them into viable, sustainable businesses.

The CCIC’s work is particularly welcome in the Caribbean, which stands to suffer from climate change – e.g.,rising sea levels, more extreme weather patterns, and coral bleaching — yet is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. It’s even better that these are homegrown solutions being scaled up, as opposed to importing foreign technology that does not create local jobs nor expand the tax base.

Tapping private-sector innovation to help mitigate the effects of climate change was a major theme of the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit held last September in New York. For more information, see the videos of the panels on climate change and civilization, and sustainable solutions to the global energy crisis, as well as Blouin News’ video interview of Peter deMenocal about businesses and climate change.