Politicians must be more aware of climate change impact, says UWI professorTuesday, November 22, 2016
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter email@example.com
FOUNDER of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Anthony Chen, says the unawareness among politicians about the impact of climate change on small island states such as Jamaica is contributing to a lack of sustainability of mitigation efforts.
"We are not going to solve the problem until we get the political directorate involved (and) committed, and that requires awareness. Most of us are not really aware of the full implications of climate change… I think we need to make the politicians much more aware," Chen said, pointing to the two per cent growth in the economy over the last quarter.
He was among a team of climate change experts from the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation who were guests at the
Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
He noted that it was the agricultural sector which accounted for this jump, and that this was directly attributable to a significant increase in rainfall following two years of drought. Professor Chen said politicians must take note of developments such as these so that the country can prepare itself for what will certainly come next — another period of harsh drought.
"If politicians understood full understanding of climate change they would know that the next drought may very well be much worse (than the last) and it will continue to get worse," he said.
"We have to convince the politicians," Professor Chen insisted, noting his disappointment that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change team that will visit Jamaica from November 28 to December 1 will not have the opportunity to meet with parliamentarians because of local government election activities.
Professor Chen also argued that Jamaicans, politicians included, are not paying nearly enough attention to the country’s level of greenhouse emissions and the increasing negative consequences.
"In Jamaica we don’t realise this. We concentrate a lot on adaptation, so people believe that taking care of the environment will solve climate change, and it will not. We have to get major developed countries to cut back on greenhouse gases," he said.
In fact, Professor Chen argued that there needs to be much greater pressure and advocacy at international meetings for developed countries with the highest emissions, such as China and the United States to help fix the damage they cause, such as assisting small island developing states with storage for renewable energy.
Meanwhile, chief technical director at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, emphasised that climate change policy does feed into the Government’s wider economic development. He explained that Cabinet is usually briefed, through the portfolio minister, on any important findings that is expected to have an impact on the economic planning process.
"When plans or projects are put forward, if they are going to have an impact on the environment, or if they have a large footprint, NEPA would usually require that an Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted to see the feasibility of the project to determine the impact on the environment and what mitigating factors or actions would have to be put in place," he outlined. Khan also noted the recent appointment of a Climate Change Advisory Board to advise the minister and the division on critical climate change matters.
Professor Chen suggested that an economic unit should be incorporated into the Climate Change Department, to determine the economic cost of climate change in various areas.
Project administrator and senior climate change negotiator, Clifford Mahlung, noted that the Climate Change Division is seeking to streamline and synergise the climate change activities that are already being carried out across all ministries, agencies and departments, to develop sector strategies.