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Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.

The causes include unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices and indoor and outdoor pollution, as well as injuries.
The new numbers equate to these pollutants being the cause of one in four deaths of children 1 month to 5 years old.
One new report highlights that the most common causes of child death are preventable through interventions already available to the communities most affected. These causes are diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, which can be prevented using insecticide-treated bed nets, clean cooking fuels and improved access to clean water.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said in a statement. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
Infants exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, including secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of pneumonia during childhood as well as an increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases — such as asthma — for the rest of their lives, one report states.
The global body also highlighted the increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer from exposure to air pollution.
More than 90% of the world’s population is thought to breathe air that violates quality guidelines set by the WHO.
The reports further list ways in which these risk factors can be removed to prevent disease and death.
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “A polluted environment results in a heavy toll on the health of our children.”
The growth of electronic and electrical waste is also a concern, according to the report. If not disposed of correctly, waste can expose children to toxins that can harm intelligence and cause attention deficits, lung damage and cancer.
Also among the fears: an increasing risk of climate change, due to rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, boosting pollen growth and possibly asthma. An estimated 44% of asthma cases among children worldwide are thought to be related to environmental exposures, the reports say.
In addition to highlighting the burden borne by young children, the new reports suggest ways in which risk factors — and therefore death rates — can be reduced.
These include reducing air pollution, improving access to clean water and sanitation, protecting pregnant women from secondhand smoke and building safer environments in order to reduce accidents and injuries.
“Both indoor and outdoor air pollution have an important effect on the health and development of children, and not just in the stereotypical ‘polluted cities’ context but also for very poor rural families who cook indoors,” said Joy Lawn, professor of maternal reproductive and child health epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“Clean water is taken for granted by families in high-income countries, and yet those children in the hottest climates, facing the greatest risks of infectious diseases, are the very ones with least access to clean water.”
But Lawn added that pollution is not the only risk factor when it comes to child mortality.
“We also need to be careful in attributing these deaths just to dirty water or pollution,” she said. “To prevent deaths from pneumonia, we also need vaccines and antibiotics; from malaria, we also need bed nets and anti-malarials. It Is not just about pollution.”
Other potential solutions mentioned in the reports are removing mould and pests from housing, removing lead paint, ensuring sanitation and good nutrition at schools and using better urban planning to create more green spaces in cities. Safe management of industrial waste by industries is also highlighted, along with stopping the use of hazardous pesticides and child labor in agriculture.
The report “highlights the scale of the problem of how environmental pollution affects the health of children across the globe,” said John Holloway, professor of allergy and respiratory genetics at the University of Southampton. Holloway recently authored a report on the lifelong impact of air pollution.
“We must also remember that it is not just the acute effects of pollution on children’s health mentioned in the report that we need to be concerned about, it is also the potential long-term effects of exposure to pollutants in early life that can have lifelong effects on health and well-being,” he said.
Holloway also stressed that this is not a concern solely for developing countries. “Exposures such as air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke affects the health of children in developed countries such as the UK as well,” he said.
But, like the WHO, he also stressed that things can be done to help solve the problem and said authorities and individuals should act now — as well as think long-term — to protect the health of future generations.
“We all have a responsibility for reducing environmental pollution,” he said. “This is going to require changes in society such as better monitoring of pollution and taking into account the true long-term economic cost of pollution when assessing the cost of measures to reduce environmental pollution.”
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Seated from (left) Audrey Sewell, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation; Milverton Reynold, managing director of the Development Bank of Jamaica; Gillian Hyde, general manager of JN Small Business Loans, and Allison Rangolan McFarlane, chief technical director, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate the administration of the Climate Change Adaptation Line of Credit (CCALoC). The CCALoC will provide financing to Micro, Small and Medium Size Enterprises in the tourism and agri-business sectors across Jamaica, to increase resilience to climate change in these sectors. The signing took place at the Office of the Prime Minister in St. Andrew last year. Looking on are Minister with Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz and Therese Turner-Jones, general manager of the Inter-American Development Bank Caribbean Department.

Jamaica National Small Business Loans (JNSBL) is looking to vamp up interest in its US$2.5-million adaptation to climate change line of credit, catering exclusively to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) from the agriculture, tourism and related sectors.

“In the coming months, JNSBL will be strengthening its efforts through collaborations with related parties in the tourism and agro value chain to further promote the special loan facility,” said Jacqueline Shaw Nicholson, JNSBL’s communications and client services manager.

“We will also support the education of persons on matters of climate change as well as adaptive and mitigation techniques available to them,” she told The Gleaner.

So far, SMEs have drawn down on J$19.5 million of the available funds to finance the installation of rainwater harvesting systems, drip irrigation systems, water recirculation systems, solar water heating system, and energy smart system.

The first loan was approved in December, following the official launch of the line of credit earlier in the year.

“JNSBL is pleased with the take up of the loan facility so far, with 51 per cent to the Tourism sector and 49 per cent to the agro sector in disbursements,” said Shaw Nicholson.

For those persons wishing to drawn down on the funds, criteria for selection include not only that they be operating a tourism or agro-related business, but also that proposed projects must enhance their capacity to cope better with the increased changes and effects of climate change.

“Collateral is required and can include machinery and equipment of trade or to be purchased, motor vehicles that can be comprehensively insured or registered titles as well as lien on deposits, guarantors are also acceptable,” revealed Shaw Nicholson.

The maximum loan amount that can be awarded is $5 million, with an interest rate of four per cent per annum on the reducing balance.

However, Shaw Nicholson said, “borrowers can also utilise other loan facilities available at JNSBL to further support project implementation where needed”.

The line of credit is one of two financing mechanisms under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience. The other is the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCAF) that is being administered by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).

The SCCAF finances adaptation and disaster risk-reduction projects and cover associated programme management cost.

It is accessible by community-based organisations, other civil-society groups and select public-sector agencies specifically for “clearly defined high-priority activities, particularly related to building the resilience of the natural environment and contributing to livelihoods protection and poverty reduction”, according to project documents.

The EFJ recently awarded 18 grants to the tune of $84.9 million to undertake projects designed to boost the ability of communities to respond to climate change threats.

Counted among those threats are increased and/or more severe extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, which destroy agricultural and tourism livelihoods.

Climate change also brings warmer temperatures, which, too, have negative implications for not only human livelihoods but also marine life. This is given, as one example, the negative effects of increased sea surface temperatures on coral reefs.

It is a look at these implications that, at least in part, provides the basis of JNSBL’s decision to pursue administration of the line of credit under the PPCR.

“Increasingly, agro-related activities were experiencing negative changes in production yield, both in quality and quantity, which affected their ability to earn as per usual. We, therefore, wanted to assist with educating our clients and staff on matters of climate change and assist them to obtain the systems and techniques necessary to adequately respond to matters of climatic variability,” Shaw Nicholson said.

“JNSBL is also cognisant of the wider threat climate change poses to food security and as a part of our own mandate to support economic sustainability, JNSBL wanted to provide well needed support to the MSME sector to adequately mitigate and adapt for sustainability,” she added.

Gleaner

In this November 2016 photo, co-chairman of Fortress Wes Edens (left) poses with Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness and President & CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) Kelly Tomblin at the offcial commissioning of the JPS LNG plant at Bogue in Montego Bay.

Power utility boss Kelly Tomblin views Softbank’s acquisition of Fortress Investment Group, to which New Fortress Energy is affiliated, as positive for furthering plans to build out gas facilities in Jamaica,

American company New Fortress Energy is a gas supply partner to Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).

Last November, the partners celebrated the commissioning of Jamaica’s first LNG-fired plant at Bogue in Montego Bay, and they are about to start development on another gas facility in St Catherine. In both cases, New Fortress invests separately in the gas-supply infrastructure, while JPS develops the power plant.

The marine terminal and gas power plant development at Old Harbour in St Catherine is to get off the ground “in a couple of weeks,” said Tomlin, the president and CEO of JPS, on Friday.

JPS secured funding locally for its plant, while New Fortress planned to finance the project themselves with cash rather than debt, Tomlin, who noted that the acquisition by Softbank means “they will have a lot more cash”.

New Fortress did not return Gleaner calls up to press.

Last Wednesday, the two parties jointly announced a US$3.3 billion deal for Softbank of Japan to acquire New York-based Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, which is co-chaired by Pete Briger and Wes Edens, said its senior executives would remain with the company.

EXCITED ABOUT DEAL

“I am in dialogue with Wes Eden,” said Tomblin. “I am assured that this acquisition doesn’t harm the project and that also he is excited about this deal; and so too the members on the ground who work for New Fortress,” said Tomlin.

Asked about any other implication to Jamaica, she said there would be “absolutely none”.

New Fortress plans to build and operate a liquefied natural gas marine terminal and pipeline within the Portland Bight area or close to the Goat Islands, according to the environmental report released last year.

The project will be executed through affiliate NFE South Holdings Limited. The marine terminal will feed gas to the 190MW plant that JPS will be developing at Old Harbour.

Gleaner

A JPS workman installs power lines in the Springfield housing development in Clarendon on August 17, 2016. The Jamaican Government plans to divest its near 20 per cent holdings in the power utility.
Opposition spokesman on mining and energy, Phillip Paulwell, says if the Government divests its nearly 20 per cent stake in Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) at this time, the asset would fetch the least possible value.

However, Dennis Chung, the chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), says if Government wants to divest its shares in JPS it might make sense, noting the valuation of the shares would be based on future prospects of the business.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, delivering the Throne Speech in Parliament on February 9, said the Government will this year begin the process of privatising its minority shareholding in JPS.

“The Government will take steps to ensure that there is broad retail and institutional participation and Jamaican owners in the divestment process,” he said, adding that an enterprise team will be appointed to lead it.

JPS is primarily owned by Marubeni of Japan and Korea East West Power Company, each of which holds 40 per cent interest.

Paulwell said the Government’s expressed plan to offload its shares in the power utility “doesn’t mean it’s going to happen as we have seen from last year’s Throne Speech”.

Notwithstanding that, “I am opposed to the divestment of the shares at this time because we would get the least possible value on those assets in JPS, largely because everybody is aware that 290 megawatt of JPSCo capacity will become scrap metal in a matter of time when the new 190MW plant is established.”

The 190MW plant to which he referred is the proposed gas-fired power station at Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine, on which construction is slated to start in early March.

“For me, the Government should participate in the new 190 (megawatt) plant which will preserve and enhance its value, and after that plant has been established, that’s the time you can think about selling the shares,” Paulwell told the Financial Gleaner.

$2-billion debt

“If you were to sell the shares now, we would end up not getting much because we owe JPSCo so much money now; so nothing will go to the government’s coffers, because any money we make from the sale will have to go and clear our debt with JPS,” he said.

He noted that the Government currently owes the JPS more than $2 billion in bills, including for street lighting.

“So if it were to sell the shares now it will be at a depressed value. The net effect would not mean anything coming into Government’s coffers,” said the energy spokesman.

What the Government needs to do is to participate fully in construction of the 190-megawatt plant, Paulwell said. “It will cost them about US$20 million in equity,” he said, noting that for that plant, the JPS has a 20-year power purchase agreement which guarantees that project a significant rate of return on the investment for 20 years.

“That is one of the safest investments you could make. Why would the Government not be a part of that? And at that time it could contemplate on how to dispose of its shares,” said Paulwell.

“And, in any event, if it’s going to do that, the Jamaican people must be the people to whom those shares are sold,” he said.

Chung indicated that in making the decision to divest its shares in JPS, the Government must know what is happening.

He said he did not see it as a big deal to divest the shares and make Jamaicans a part of the ownership.

Referring to Paulwell’s opposition to the sale at this time, Chung noted that valuation of the shares would be done based on what is expected in terms of business.

“If you know, for example, that you have a contract to sell twice what you sold this year, then you can build that knowledge into the valuation,” he said, adding that the valuation would also be based on future prospects.

He noted that shares are traded at a price-earnings ratio and sometimes can be valued at many times more than the book value of an entity.

“So it’s based on information that people have,” he said, adding that if investors believe they are going to make a killing “out of this thing, going forward, then you value the shares accordingly”.

Gleaner

The Governor General said the Government will seek to ensure that Jamaicans have ownership in the island’s sole electricity generation and distribution company, Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS)

Sir Patrick disclosed this morning that the Administration will this year sell its remaining stake in JPS.

The Government owns 19.9 per cent of the light and power company.

The Governor General said an enterprise team is to be set up to lead the divestment.

The opposition has objected to the Government’s divestment of its JPS shares.

Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell, has described the move as ill-advised and untimely.

Paulwell argued that the sale would deprive the company of the opportunity to maximise the expected increase in its assets.

Gleaner

Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund administrators from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and beneficiaries show off the cheque representing the most recent awards at the signing ceremony last Monday.

WITH A changing climate that threatens to wash away entire communities and derail livelihoods, local civil society organisations and small businesses are being empowered to respond – with capital.

This is thanks to financing made available through the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR).

There exist two financing mechanisms, according to Dr Winsome Townsend, project manager for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism under the PPCR.

One is the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCAF) that is being administered by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.

The SCCAF, according to project documents, is “to finance adaptation and disaster risk-reduction projects and cover associated programme management costs”.

“Grants from this trust fund will be accessed by community-based organisations, other civil-society groups and selected public-sector agencies, for clearly defined high-priority activities, particularly related to building the resilience of the natural environment and contributing to livelihoods protection and poverty reduction,” the documents revealed.

Last Monday, the first 18 beneficiary organisations were awarded sums to the tune of $84.9 million to undertake projects designed to enhance resilience at the community level.

“There was a call for proposals in October last year and out of that, about 80 proposals were received and about half that amount were shortlisted. They were further assessed and out of that, an initial 18 were approved,” said Townsend.

“Twelve were pending approval. Those 12 have now been approved. So out of that first call, approximately 30 have been approved,” she added.

PROJECTS TO BE PURSUED

Projects to be pursued include water harvesting and greenhouses, aquaponics systems and food processing, as well as various ecosystem restoration initiatives.

Townsend said another call will be issued later this month or early March.

The second mechanism is a line of credit, intended “to provide loan financing to support adaptation measures of farmers and other businesses in the agricultural sector, and small hoteliers and other businesses in the tourism sector”.

Five projects have been approved to the tune of some $25 million, Townsend said. However, the overall level of interest in the line of credit – administered by JN Small Business Loan – is not immediately clear.

“Because it has started soft, we don’t know yet. We can’t at this time make any determination as to the level of enthusiasm,” Townsend said.

Still, she is hopeful for its success, given what is at stake.

“It is not just the Government who needs to put in measures in terms of climate change adaptation, but everybody, including citizens. Of particular interest is the private sector because businesses are under threat from climate change, and so the private sector needs to respond to these threats,” she said.

“The micro, small and medium-size businesses are at greater risk because of their capacity to respond. They are not as resilient as the more established or bigger enterprises,” Townsend noted.

Gleaner