THE Jamaican delegation now attending the annual climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, will be supporting the establishment of a new five-year commitment period in which large countries will be required to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
The six-member team, led by Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill will also press for the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund, a facility to pay for renewable energy and other projects backed by US$100 billion per year.
The 18th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which began on Monday and ends on December 7, is being held against the background of a new report that says greenhouse gas emissions are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be by 2020.
Jamaica's lead negotiator at the conference, Clifford Mahlung, said Jamaica will be negotiating as part of the Alliance of Small-island States (AOSIS), a grouping of 43 countries which are most affected by climate change. Mahlung, who is the acting head of the climate change branch of the Meterological Service of Jamaica, noted that the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which begins in January next year, also means that participating developed countries will make new commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the issues to be decided is whether the commitment period should be five or eight years.
"The position of Jamaica is that the commitment period should last five years because the emissions targets are not as high as they should be and we want to move to higher targets as quickly as possible," Mahlung said at a press conference held on November 16 to update the media on preparations going into Doha.
Mahlung said progress has been made in several areas in previous conferences, including arrangements for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, developing national adaptation plans and arrangements to operationalise the US$100-billion Green Climate Fund which will be headquartered in South Korea.
Underscoring the importance of the presence of Minister Pickersgill at the conference, Mahlung said the decisions involving financing could only be made by ministers of government in attendance.
"Minister Pickersgill's presence will strengthen the voice of the developing countries and magnify the voice of the small-island developing states," he said.
Commenting on Jamaica's participation in Doha, Pickersgill said the country has political and technical delegates at the highest level to engage in negotiations and represent the country's interests. He said facilities like the Adaptation Fund were the result of consistent lobbying by developing states like Jamaica.
"Jamaica has a long and proud tradition of contributing to the UN process. Our voices are listened to intently and are respected by all," he stated.
According to a brief provided by the ministry the meeting will finalise negotiations on the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol which means increased opportunity for carbon trading projects for developing countries like Jamaica. The Wigton Wind Farm in St Elizabeth is an example of one such project.
The target set under the second commitment period is to keep temperature increase in the future below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This means developed countries will commit to up to 45 per cent reduction in the 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. So far their pledge amounts to only 20 per cent. AOSIS is not entirely happy with this target but is pleased with progress so far, the brief stated.
Mahlung also noted that the second commitment period will have reduction commitments for both developed and developing countries unlike the first period, which only referred to developed nations. This means that fast-growing developing countries like India, China and Brazil will be required to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
But even as the crucial talks get underway in Doha, the Emissions Gap Report, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation, stated that "action on climate change needs to be scaled-up and accelerated without delay if the world is to have a running chance of keeping a global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius this century".
According to the report which involved 55 scientists from more than 20 countries, "instead of declining, concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are actually increasing in the atmosphere — up around 20 per cent since 2000."
The report shows that representatives from 190 countries expected in Doha will have to cover a lot of ground in arriving at agreements which will lower greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming.
But Pickersgill is optimistic noting that even the United States is taking climate change more seriously, especially in the aftermath of "superstorm" Sandy which left some US$50-billion in damage in the US after inflicting $5 billion here in Jamaica.
"The evidence has become undeniable. They (the US) didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol but they are slowly coming around," Pickersgill said. "Sandy in a real sense is probably divine intervention."
Meanwhile, the second week of the two-week Doha conference will be the high-level segment at which point, Pickersgill would be "putting Jamaica's concerns on the table and ensuring we have access to the Green Climate Fund".
She said the US$100-billion fund would not become operational until next year, but noted that it will be good to start aligning ourselves from now" to access it.
Jamaica is also expected to put on a side event at the conference entitled "Adaptation — the Jamaican Experience".
The presentation, which is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will allow many of the 10,000 delegates to "see first-hand the impact high carbon emissions by developed countries is having on Jamaica".