Cuba Has An Ambitious Plan To Protect Its Environment From Tourists

President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba on Sunday promises to revive a question raised when the U.S. began normalizing relations with the island nation: As American tourists pour in, what will happen to Cuba’s natural environment?

An influx of tourists and businesses will likely bring investment to Cuba, but some experts fear the expansion of tourism, mechanized agriculture and oil exploration could threaten its well-preserved natural ecosystems.

In fact, the Cubans “have a lot to lose in terms of biodiversity, marine and coastal habitat and fish populations if they don’t do things right moving ahead,” Daniel Whittle, senior director of the Cuba program at the Environmental Defense Fund, told The Huffington Post.

The uptick in American tourism is already “putting a real strain” on Cuba, he said.

Despite fears of environmental ruin, both Cuba and the U.S. have been working to ensure the restoration of diplomatic ties doesn’t come at the expense of Cuba’s land and marine ecosystems.

“At the official level, environmental protection is still a high priority,” Whittle said about Cuba. “It’s something [President Raúl] Castro and his deputies talk a lot about.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made protecting the environment a central issue in the State Department’s negotiations with Cuba.

Of the four agreements signed by U.S. and Cuban officials since the re-opening of relations in 2014, two have laid out plans for environmental protection in Cuba, according to Whittle.

One agreement, signed in November 2015, outlines a planned effort by both countries to share scientific knowledge, collaborate on conservation efforts and jointly “address the causes and effects of climate change” in Cuba, according to a copy of the agreement.

“The agreement provides an unprecedented vehicle for the governments to actually talk to each other and influence each other,” Whittle —> Read More