Environment

Gov’t sets up climate change advisory committee

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Environment editor ?williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 12, 2012    

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GOVERNMENT has established an advisory committee — manned by some of the island’s brightest scientific minds — as it moves to have the long-awaited Climate Change Department up and running by year-end.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill made the announcement last Wednesday at a symposium put on by the University of the West Indies Faculty of Law.

He noted that the committee — to be chaired by environmental management consultant Dr Conrad Douglas and whose members will include the likes of physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Anthony Chen — is to guide the establishment of the Climate Change Department.

It was more than five years ago that the Government of the People’s National Party — out of office for more than four years up to last December — announced plans to establish what it referred to then as a climate change unit.

At the time, it was envisaged that the new entity — to be operated out of the offices of the Meteorological Service in Kingston and for which space was subsequently designated — was to have responsibility to coordinate and manage the island’s efforts to treat the ill-effects of the changing climate.

Those effects include rising sea levels and the attendant coastal erosion and livelihood loss; warmer global temperatures that could undermine agriculture as well as tourism; and more extreme weather events, such as droughts and hurricanes.

Up to three years ago, the projected cost of the unit was put at some $8.7 million. Last Wednesday, the minister said that was “monkey money”.

“It’s going to take a lot more than that,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Pickersgill could not give a precise figure, but said the United Nations Development Programme would stand the cost of the consultant retained to oversee the structuring and establishment of the department.

Meanwhile, he said the advisory committee — whose membership is expected to include environmental nongovernmental organisations — will also help to further awareness raising on climate change, for which a recent public education campaign was launched last month.

“The country is not informed... We are convinced that you have to educate. I admit it publicly; I was never as aware as I ought to have been as a Jamaican citizen. If I can say that publicly, I emphathise and understand what is before us. To [correct the situation] we are setting up this advisory committee,” Pickersgill said. “I didn’t know we had all that expertise and talent in this country. I want all of these people... to sit down and come up with something that we can go to the public with.”

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