JAMAICA’S Professor Michael Taylor has made the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team, tasked to deliver what is a vital report for the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), in the fight against global climate change.
Taylor was invited to serve as one of three coordinating lead authors for the third chapter of a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius as a global greenhouse gas emissions target.
The IPCC was mandated to produce that report, largely through lobby efforts led over years by SIDS, in the race to curtail emissions that fuel the changing climate that could devastate them.
“Chapter three merges what happens with the physical impacts of climate change, like changes in temperature, rainfall, and so on, with the impacts on ecosystems, natural systems and on human beings,” Taylor, a celebrated local physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
“It is actually the first time they are merging those two things in one chapter. Normally, it would be Working Group I (WGI) looking at the physical side and WGII on the physical impact. Chapter three now will look at both the scientific basis for 1.5 and what are the impacts on managed systems as well as human beings,” he added.
Taylor is joined by two other coordinating lead authors and a team of 20 lead authors to deliver that chapter.
“We will also coop contributing authors with special expertise as needed to lead the authorship of that chapter,” noted the head of the Physics Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Taylor’s research interests include understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change.
Quizzed as to his feeling on being asked to serve, the scientist said: “It is a real honour; I appreciate the honour.
“It is not just an honour for me personally, but also for Caribbean science that it is being recognised in such a way. But it is an overwhelming task that is being asked so I also feel extremely overwhelmed but extremely grateful for the recognition,” he added.
The historic Paris Agreement, which charts the course for the global response to climate change, looks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
The inclusion of 1.5 was hard-fought-for by Caribbean and other SIDS aided by the regional campaign dubbed “1.5 To Stay Alive”.
The campaign run primarily in the lead-up to and during the 2015 climate talks in Paris where the agreement was adopted involved regional players such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, communication NGO Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Regional Council of Martinique, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Among other things, it saw the establishment of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges all the while calling for the holding of temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A theme song the collaborative effort of Caribbean artistes, including Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education’s singer Aaron Silk was also released.
“The 1.5 is a kind of threshold of viability for small islands going into the future. So this report, I think, the small islands have a special interest in because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case,” Taylor said of the review work to be done in the coming months.
“And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. This is the report that is kind of the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement,” he added.
Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen, who was recognised for his own contributions to climate research through the IPCC, had high praise for Taylor.
“Professor Taylor is an excellent person to lead the project and I have every confidence in him,” said Chen, a mentor to the professor, whom he taught at university and who succeeded him as head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.
“I was very glad for him. He had asked me what I thought and I told him, ‘go for it’. It puts the Caribbean on the map that they should be for the 1.5 project. This is sort of a late registration of that fact,” he added.
JAMAICA HAS ratified the historic international climate change deal, dubbed the Paris Agreement, which was reached in France in 2015, following years of wrangling among countries over what its provisions should be.
This, as the world looks to combat the changing climate that threatens, through sea level rise, extreme weather events, increasing temperatures and associated impacts, to erode economies and jeopardise lives.
“The instrument was signed by the minister of foreign affairs (Kamina Johnson Smith) on the 30th of March and the document sent off to New York for deposit at the United Nations,” UnaMay Gordon, principal director of the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, told The Gleaner Tuesday.
“It was deposited on the 10th of April. Therefore, for Jamaica, the agreement will enter into force on the 10th of May, 2017,” she added.
Jamaica’s ratification comes close to a year after its participation at the high-level signature ceremony in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.
The agreement, meanwhile, aims to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” through a number of actions.
Included among them is “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
The island joins other CARICOM members with the exception of Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago who have ratified the agreement.
In responding to the perceived delay in Jamaica’s ratification, Gordon said the island had a process that needed to be gone through.
“Once the instrument was signed (in New York last year), then we started that process. Jamaica, unlike some other countries, had a process of consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that people understood what we were doing,” she said.
“The document went to the AG (attorney general) for the opinion of the AG. We received the opinion of the AG in October 2016. In the opinion, the AG had given an undertaking that there were only some procedural matters and that Jamaica could proceed to ratify the agreement,” she added.
“But we thought as a division that we should do the consultations. So we had focus groups, individual sit-downs and so on with stakeholders from finance, forestry, energy, etc, to find out if they were in agreement with the AG’s opinion to go ahead, and all of them had no objection,” Gordon said further.
No objections were received up to February this year and a Cabinet submission made.
“Cabinet gave the approval to ratify,” Gordon said. “We are now a full party to the agreement and have to implement at the national level.”
With the expected April 2019 departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union, British Member of Parliament (MP) Dawn Butler has said that the relationship among the UK, Jamaica, and the wider Commonwealth now has added importance, which should result in mutual energy benefits.
The leader of a three-member delegation on a visit to the island to explore renewable energy opportunities, Butler told The Gleaner during an interview at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Wednesday that she was optimistic about connecting with small countries to maximise all available renewable sources.
“At the end of the day, what would satisfy me the most is if the delegation has found ways in which we can collaborate and build sustainable relations with Jamaica that we can carry beyond the 2030 vision, and also if a solution can be discovered to reduce our carbon emissions.”
She added: “The drawback to renewable [energy] is finding investors for the initial outlay and technology. What follows is the concern of regaining the money, but in the wider scheme of things, there’s no disadvantage. Non-renewable energy is an international problem, and as global warming gets worse, the effect on islands such as [those in] the Caribbean is devastating.”
Born to two Jamaican parents and MP for Brent Central, the British constituency with the largest number of Jamaicans, Butler further disclosed that Jamaica had not been capitalising on its branding power had outside of solar energy.
“Jamaica has a worldwide brand that other people get rich from and Jamaica hardly benefits. There is other infrastructure that needs to be put in place to ensure consistency of produce and other things Jamaican, but Jamaica has the environment and the human resource to catapult itself to higher heights.”
Butler and the delegation are expected to hold talks on renewable energy with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley prior to their departure tomorrow.
Concurrently, the addition of the 80MW of renewable energy saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.
These factors allowed Jamaica to breathe cleaner air and climb in the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). It’s unknown whether these emission savings were converted into carbon credits.
Jamaica improved six spots to 92 worldwide to become a global case study for energy diversification, according to the annual EAPI study produced by the World Economic Forum.
Trading partner and oil producer Trinidad & Tobago inched up one spot to 109, from 110 a year earlier.
The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017 indicated that Jamaica, Mexico and Uruguay, all developing countries, made strides in their energy sector performance since 2009.
In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW.
“[It resulted] in a cut in CO2 emissions of at least 800,000 metric tonnes between 2014 and 2016,” stated the energy ministry in response to Financial Gleaner queries.
“The 80.30MW of renewable energy added to the grid represents a reduction of 413,781 barrels of oil imported per year,” the ministry said via email.
Another 100MW of capacity is expected to be developed by energy investors this year, for which the bidding process is under way, it added.
Jamaica is pressing ahead with its renewable programme even as oil prices remain subdued.
The price of oil averaged US$43.33 for WTI crude and US$43.74 for Brent crude in 2016, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration statistics.
The ministry credited Jamaica’s energy successes to the aggressive implementation of the National Energy Policy – NEP 2009-2030. In ensuring that Jamaica’s energy infrastructure is as efficient, safe and competitive as possible, the NEP has within its plan of action the formulation of a new Electricity Act which provides for and promotes renewables in the energy sector, added the ministry.
The amended electricity law, in effect since 2015, was also a deliverable of the Energy Security Efficiency and Enhancement Project. That programme also oversaw the delivery of the natural gas policy and regulations, and the smart grid road map.
Jamaica appears set to surpass its initial target of 20 per cent renewables by 2030 under the restructuring of its energy mix away from crude. The ministry said the goal has already been reset higher to 30 per cent renewables by 2030.
“All things remaining equal, Jamaica will surpass the ’20 in 30′ target and we are now aiming for ’30 in 30′,” the ministry said.
The energy efficiency programme has so far saved the government $131.5 million, which translates to a 2,768-metric tonne reduction in carbon emissions.
Jamaica is shortly to have the benefit of a comprehensive set of guidelines for coastal management and beach restoration, as it faces down a changing climate that puts at risk coastal resources on which it is hugely dependent.
But whether the island will gain the full measure of the anticipated benefits remains to be seen.
“Guidelines are usually of limited importance since they are non-binding and often ignored. Even binding requirements are often ignored,” cautioned Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer for the Jamaica Environment Trust.
The guidelines – the work of Mott MacDonald and partners – are due out in May, following on a February 22 stakeholder consultation on the document.
According to information out of the World Bank, the guidelines, now in draft, integrate hard infrastructure measures with soft measures like relocation, replanting and beach restoration and nourishment, together with non-structural solutions, including conservation and awareness raising and education.
“The guidelines consist of recommended, non-mandatory control serving as a reference for coastal protection measures,” noted Galina Sotirova, World Bank country manager for Jamaica.
“They will be used to implement and enforce new policies and strengthen those that already exist, thus enhancing disaster risk management, climate resilience and natural resources management along Jamaica’s coastline. This will directly complement the work on building resilience in Jamaica’s coastal areas,” she added.
The recent workshop reportedly saw more than 40 representatives from the public, private, academic and civil society sectors who were able to present questions or otherwise make suggestions on the document.
However, while the guidelines look to be headed in the right direction, McCaulay said Jamaica’s problem has traditionally been “that we continue to permit development that increases our vulnerability to climate change and the degradation of the marine environment”.
“For example, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) still gives permits for the removal of seagrasses and mangroves, building is still occurring on sand dunes, sewage treatment is still poor in too many cases, resulting in decline in coral reefs, overfishing and fishing in sanctuaries still continue, setback from the high-water mark are insufficient, etc,” the JET boss told The Gleaner.
Added McCaulay: “Although NEPA does require replanting of seagrasses and mangroves, their protection and habitat functions are lost during the many years they take to grow, and in some cases, the replanting has been badly done and unsuccessful. Beaches are maintained by complex processes. If those processes are allowed to be disrupted by development, beaches will be lost.”
The World Bank, meanwhile, is optimistic for a good outcome once the finalised guidelines are delivered.
“We envision NEPA’s adoption of guideline recommendations and incorporate them into beach licence applications. The guidelines will also be readily available to all stakeholders working in coastal areas – Government, academia, NGOs, private sector, etc – resulting in the rehabilitation of degraded coastal ecosystems and reduction of climate-related impacts on that coastal sites,” she said in her address to the workshop.
“Finally, we expect that the innovative approaches recommended in the guidelines will promote the introduction of nature-based and hybrid coastal protection measures; essential to minimising the impacts of coastal hazards to secure a healthier environment, essential for Jamaica’s coastal economy and livelihoods in the tourism and fishing industries.”
The guidelines are being developed through the ACP-EU Grant ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management and Climate Resilience in Jamaica’s Development Planning Process’ funded by the ACP-EU.