Environment

NGOs partner to strengthen Jamaica's climate change efforts

Wednesday, August 31, 2011    

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EFFORTS to improve the lives of Jamaicans affected by climate change are to get a boost from a partnership between two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as they move to increase the island's capacity to access and manage funds to deal with the troubling phenomenon.

The two NGOs — Panos Caribbean, with an office in Kingston, and Germanwatch out of Europe — signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in June this year, agreeing to co-operate with each other on a range of issues to do with climate change.

Climate change threatens a host of ills, including rising sea levels; warmer temperatures; more extreme weather events, such as droughts and hurricanes; and increased incidents of diseases like Dengue — all of which could severely undermine the socio-economic development of Jamaica and other small-island developing states.

Under the MOU, Panos — which works to empower marginalised and vulnerable people in the region — consented to, among other things, work to build awareness among civil society about climate change. They also agreed to help ramp up civil society buy-in and involvement in Jamaica's climate change adaptation efforts — led by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) — which is deemed necessary if the measures are to yield long-term success.

In exchange, Germanwatch — founded in Germany 20 years ago and which lobbies to ensure that the voices of developing countries are heard in Germany and the European Union — has pledged to help finance a baseline study to gage awareness levels and actions being taken among civil society on climate change and climate change adaptation.

Germanwatch, which also monitors the effect of Germany's climate, corporate and agriculture policies on the world, also agreed to help fund the cost of getting players from within civil society to participate in the international climate talks, held annually at various locations across the world. This year, that meeting is scheduled for Durban in South Africa.

In furtherance of their agreement, Sonke Kreft, senior advisor for climate change and insurance at Germanwatch, was recently in Jamaica, visiting vulnerable communities and meeting with stakeholders.

While here, he, along with Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, Panos' regional director for community, media and environment, met with representatives of the PIOJ, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Focal Point, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Ministry of Agriculture, and other interest groups.

He also visited communities targeted for adaptation projects, such as Portland Cottage/Portland Bight in Clarendon, Little Ochi, Alligator Pond, and Treasure Beach along the Manchester/St Elizabeth coast, as well as Negril in Westmoreland.

Jamaica earlier this year earned the endorsement of the Adaptation Fund Board for the implementation of a programme designed to strengthen its ability to deal with the changes in the climate. The board gave the go-ahead for the development of the proposal for the programme -- Enhancing Resilience of the Agriculture Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security -- at its 14th meeting, held in Bonn, Germany between June 21 and 22.

US$9.995 million has therefore been earmarked for the development of the proposal for the project, which is to benefit several communities deemed vulnerable to climate change. It is the success of this effort that Panos and Germanwatch's efforts are now focussed.

"Jamaica will benefit because if the proposal is funded, it means nearly US$10 million that can be used to address some of the impacts of climate change. A lot of countries are looking at us to ensure that it is properly done, Mclymont-Lafayette told Environment Watch. "Jamaica is highlighted at the international level as an example to other small islands who are trying to adjust to climate change."

Sonke said that the success of the Adaptation Fund would be influential to the establishment of the much larger Green Climate Fund to be funded from a substantial part of US$100-billion pledged by governments at the last climate conference in Mexico.

"It (the Green Climate Fund) is going to be the big thing," noted Sonke, who has training in agricultural science and environmental change management.

At the same time, he emphasised that civil society involvement in the process was crucial, justifying in the process the work of Germanwatch, which also co-ordinates the Climate Action Network, a global NGO alliance on the issues of adaptation.

"We partner with NGOs in implementing countries to get the bottom up perspective and to influence the participation of civil society and the most vulnerable people in the projects," Kreft added.

Along with Panos Caribbean, Germanwatch also has NGO partners in Senegal, Benin and Honduras and is actively seeking others in the developing world.

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