Climate consciousness increasing
JAMAICANS are becoming more conscious of climate change as their knowledge of the phenomenon and the risks it poses to the country increase.
That is the feeling of chief technical officer in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Oral Khan, one of the conceptualiser of the green paper tabled in Parliament in November 2013 titled Climate Change Policy Framework and Action Plan.
The paper supports the goals of Vision 2030 to reduce the country's risk to hazards and adapt to climate change, and recommends actions to mitigate the effects on the agriculture, water, health, coastal and marine resources, disaster risk and response management, energy, forestry, waste management and transportation sectors.
Khan, who was speaking with the Jamaica Observer at The Pegasus Hotel in Kingston last Thursday on the occasion of the final in a series of public consultations on the green paper, said with the influence of the media and public awareness campaign initiatives globally, there has been an increase in the interest of Jamaicans in climate change.
The previous sessions were held in Port Maria, St Mary; Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth and Montego Bay, St James.
"With regard to climate change, everywhere we go, people are keenly interested in what is happening," Khan said.
He didn't have statistical evidence, but provided anecdotal references to support his claim.
"When having conversations with Jamaicans, the things they talk about and what they are hearing shows that Jamaicans are becoming more aware of what climate change is and our great need to be prepared for it."
He added that during the public meetings, members of the public have demanded quick amendments to the climate change green paper before the policy is implemented, and pointed to the need to have more sectors and organisations in society included in the consultations.
"There is general support. The public has been actively participating and many want to go beyond the guidelines and want to get to the specific actions. The public is keen now. They want action (with regard to the green paper) to start. We want action to start too, but first we need the full participation of all sectors," Khan told the Observer.
"They want to be more specific about the plan, but we have to keep it broad. The specific plan will take some time and we are working now with the sectors and our development partners and that will take some months," he explained.
After the presentations, some stakeholders who attended the session expressed dissatisfaction with the draft policy paper.
Karen McDonald-Gayle, CEO of Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, contended that it lacked specific aims, but used general objectives instead.
"It's much too broad," she said. "It needs to be a lot clearer on climate change work, research and application on the ground. We need to know what the aim is and what the objective is of the policy," McDonald-Gayle told the Observer.
Sean Townsend, manager of the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Planning Division at the Urban Development Corporation, was concerned that the drafted framework did not include social media.
"There is no mention of the use of social media. That needs to be one of the strategies employed. I also don't see much addressing infrastructural development," Townsend said.
Others felt that the vision statement — "Jamaica achieves its goals of growth and prosperity for its people, while meeting the challenges of climate change as a country with enhanced resilience and capacity to adapt to the impacts and to mitigate the causes in coordinated, effective and sustainable manner" — needs to be revised to include and address the term "science".
However, prior to the presentation of the framework document, Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, made it clear that the green paper was still a work-in-progress and would not be Jamaica's ultimate solution to mitigating climate change.
On the subject of the increasing consciousness among Jamaicans, the minister acknowledged that "even after 30 years of climate change research, we still have sceptics among us".
Pickersgill pointed out that while natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and changes in the intensity of the sun also contribute to climate change, human influence in terms of changes in land use and emissions has increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
"I want to say that if humans are the main cause of climate change, humans should also provide the solution or be the solution," he said, adding that the younger generations should be more involved in that process since "humans are the main cause".
"The projected conditions for temperature and rainfall will be devastating, especially for the younger generations. I believe the young people, who will inherit the world, should be more involved in creating the future they want," he said.