A Jamaican delegation of environmental officials has returned from the annual climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, with a sense of accomplishment, having seen the achievement of the goal to establish a new five-year commitment period that allows developed countries to further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change.
The team, led by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill, attended the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from November 26 to December 8.
Clifford Mahlung, head of the Climate Change Branch at the Meteorological Service of Jamaica and the lead negotiator for the team, indicated that the decision for a smooth transition of the Kyoto Protocol — an international agreement that sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — into a second commitment period was the most significant achievement of the conference.
This commitment period is from January 2013 to December 2020.
A recently published Emissions Gap Report, co-ordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme and the European Climate Foundation, indicated that greenhouse gas emissions are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be by 2020.
The group of small islands and least developed countries, of which Jamaica is a part, was also successful in initiating the launch of a process to consider the establishment of a new mechanism to address "loss and damage" from extreme weather conditions, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and the colonisation of aquifers.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer, Mahlung described this mechanism as an "insurance-type thing". It is a process that had been long resisted by developed countries, who fear it would expose them to unlimited compensation claims.
Despite several significant outcomes, the group was unable to see the realisation of a goal to have full operation of the Green Climate Fund, which has been delayed until 2014. The Green Climate Fund is being established to contribute to the global efforts of attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change.
Mahlung said work to replenish the fund will continue for another year.
"However, it has been established that the fund will be hosted by the government of South Korea and the standing committee will continue work in getting money into the fund," Mahlung said.
The conference resulted in the adoption of 41 decisions — 27 under the Convention, 13 under the Kyoto Protocol, and one joint resolution congratulating the government of Qatar on hosting the event that had over 16,000 participants, the second-largest conference in the history of the negotiations.
Pickersgill said it was not unexpected that the Green Climate Fund was delayed "given the uncertainties that still exist with the global economy".
"While there have been mixed views on the strength of the outcomes of both the Climate Change and Rio+20 conferences, there has been progress in both cases. It is up to us to play our part in positioning Jamaica to shape the negotiations and to be fully aware of the implications for our country, our region and all small-island developing states," Pickersgill said.
Jamaica's delegation to the conference also included Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the ministry; senior advisor on climate change Rachel Allen; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade representative Nicholette Williams, and the director of the Met Service Jeffery Spooner.