For Immediate Release

Title: Defending Paradise: $64 million and Immediate Action Committed to Protect the Environment and Accelerate Renewable Energy

NECKER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands, May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – 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 committed approximately $64 million USD to preserve and protect the region’s marine and coastal environment, and accelerate efforts to transition to renewable energy.

“Protecting and harnessing the natural world is the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group. “We can’t have much economic growth without a healthy Caribbean environment, and we can’t have a healthy Caribbean environment without healthy economic development. Solving the energy challenge and marine conservation challenge in the Caribbean go hand-in-hand.”

The event, launching the second phase of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), was co-hosted by the Prime Minister of Grenada, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, and Sir Richard Branson.  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.”

“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 establishment of a national trust fund to protect biodiversity in The Bahamas; adoption of a Protected Areas System Plan to protect 33 percent of marine and coastal environments in the British Virgin Islands; the establishment of 14 fish sanctuaries in Jamaica; a commitment to double the number of protected areas in Puerto Rico; Grenada’s reaffirmation to protect 25 percent of its marine and coastal environment; and Belize’s commitment to protect 30 percent of its marine and coastal environments with over 10 designated as no-take fishing zones.

In addition to these commitments, Defend Paradise, a campaign designed to generate funding for marine conservation in the Caribbean and raise consumer awareness of the marine environment was launched.

Access the full press release, video footage from the Caribbean Summit and photos.