BEGINNING FEBRUARY 7, the USAID-funded Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) project, in collaboration with the Meteorological Service of Jamaica and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority will host a series of agrometeorology farmers’ fora.
The fora are geared at equipping farmers and other stakeholders with climate-smart risk management strategies. The series will explore common terminologies used by weather experts in delivering the weather news, enabling farmers to interpret and use this information. The workshop will also feature presentations on climate outlook for the upcoming six months and how to prepare for any unexpected changes in the weather to reduce exposure of livelihoods.
“The farmers will also benefit from awareness sessions focused on the impact of climate change and variability on agri-business enterprises, the role of insurance products in the management of climate risks, and planning for climate risks at the farm or community level using the participatory integrated climate services for agriculture tool. This will be complemented by an interactive demonstration of the risk associated with disasters and early warning climate service (flooding or drought) by the MSJ,” Ja REEACH II said in a release to the media.
GraceKennedy Insurance has partnered with the Ja REEACH II project to provide Livelihood Protection Policy coverage valued at $300,000 which will be presented to selected farmers during the series. The Livelihood Protection Policy offered by GK Insurance is a trigger-based insurance policy which is designed to help especially non-salary income earners to cope with severe impacts on their livelihood following extreme weather events (rain and wind).
This is the third staging of the agrometeorology fora which builds on the engagement of some 575 farmers, extension officers and other stakeholders who have participated.
The Ja REEACH II project is a four-year initiative funded by the USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA. Through a range of interventions, Ja REEACH II works with government, private sector, civil society and community- based organisations to increase awareness and application of practical actions that help Jamaicans to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Scientists predict that if there is an increase in global temperature of up to 4Â° Celsius — which the current trajectory has us reaching by the end of this century, small island developing states (SIDS) face the threat of extinction. SIDS, with similar characteristics of tropical climates, small populations and related socio-economic and development challenges, are perhaps the most vulnerable countries to this phenomenon of global warming, primarily because of their low-lying position in relation to the sea and their limited economic ability to respond to catastrophic events.
For a small island like Jamaica, which has already begun to experience effects of climate change, using the significant beach erosion in the tourist areas of Negril and Hellshire, as well as lengthy periods of droughts as examples, a call for action cannot be overemphasised. Let’s act while we still can.
Identifying the problem
The unfortunate reality of industrialisation is that, although it has improved the lives of many, it has single-handedly resulted in a wealth of environmental catastrophes — climate change is arguably the worst.
Historically, States like the US and China, in their quest to becoming developed, have played a notorious role contributing to the destruction of the environment. Ironically, however, despite SIDS having contributed the least to global warming (accounting for less than one per cent towards GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions), they stand to be the worst affected.
Extreme weather patterns, like extended droughts and increased temperatures, are just some of the threats of climate change. Of the list, perhaps the most serious is a rise in sea levels. This will not only potentially cause ground and surface water sources to become contaminated but also affect the livelihoods of many. Sectors like tourism and agriculture, both of which are heavily relied on by many SIDS for economic growth and stability, will suffer greatly as beaches become eroded, fisheries collapse, and arable lands are destroyed. As a consequence, governments will have to contemplate strategies at domestic and regional levels to address issues of public health and job and food security.
In addition to the threat to infrastructure and economies, climate change also puts millions at risk of becoming either internally displaced or altogether stateless. That would create the real possibility of climate migration in the future. Issues surrounding statelessness and climate refugees have been widely discussed in the public domain, with many questioning the ability of the international community to cope with yet another humanitarian crisis.
Some critics believe that the overwhelming number of migrants that will result from climate change will far exceed the scale and gravity of any of the humanitarian disasters being experienced today. What’s worse, they posit that if the response of the international community to the humanitarian crisis in Syria is anything to go by, it is unlikely that attitudes towards climate-related event will be any different. For those who live amongst SIDS, this should be a matter of grave concern.
Maldives and Kiribati are two SIDS which have already researched relocating their populations to different countries due to their imminent threat of becoming submerged by rising seas. Other SIDS ought to follow suit with urgency to avoid the worst.
Solving the problem
It is prudent for States to appreciate that climate change is an economic issue just as much as it is an environmental one. Numerous developing countries, including SIDS, have traditionally concentrated their efforts on advancing development while postponing action on pertinent environmental issues. In recent years, the issue of climate change has increasingly gained recognition by the international community and has been put at the forefront of the agendas of many world leaders. Of note is the Paris Agreement arrived at in December last year, in which some 150 countries have agreed to take steps to limit global temperatures at or below 2Â° Celsius.
Caricom, including Jamaica, which lobbied in Paris as part of the Alliance of Small Island States, had pushed for it to be capped at 1.5Â° Celsius. It would therefore be now remiss of us not to follow through and implement practical steps towards achieving the target.
Traditionally, economics has influenced decision-making on a domestic and international level, and although it is justifiable to some degree, States need to divorce the practice of allowing economics alone to dictate political momentum. Environmental problems are becoming increasingly acute and nothing but short-term pain for long-term gain will bring about the kind of revolutionary change towards reducing carbon footprint and creating a greener space.
The truth is that the problems posed by climate change can no longer be ignored; they are here to stay. SIDS have the choice of mitigating the threats and adapting to the changes now, or suffering the consequences later.
While some may prefer one option over the other, particularly since adaptation over the longterm can be significantly more costly than mitigation, the Paris Agreement calls for both methods to be employed. SIDS have little option but to do both, for again, they contribute the least to the problems, but will be the ones most affected.
On a wider scale, reducing GHG emissions in line with the Paris Agreement is a target that all States should buy into as successfully ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2Â°C above pre-industrial levels’ is contingent on the participation of all states.
It is hoped that with the US$100 billion pledged to developing countries under the Paris Agreement, SIDS will receive greater financial assistance that facilitate promote capacity building, sustainable livelihoods, and appropriate mitigation and adaptation schemes. It is hoped, too, that countries don’t wait until it is too late to act, but move with urgency now.
WITH ONLY two days to go before the official end to the climate talks here, Caribbean negotiators are working feverishly to safeguard the region’s interest in the final outcome document.
That document – referred to as ‘the text’ throughout the negotiating process – is widely expected to inform the global response to climate change.
“All of the Caribbean issues are still alive, which is a good thing … . We haven’t lost anything in the text,” said head of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change Dr James Fletcher.
But, he cautioned: “We haven’t sealed the deal on too many things. What has happened is that the COP [Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] president (Laurent Fabius) has put out the latest version of the text.”
“It is a shortened version … but we are still not anywhere near a final text because there are so many options still on the table,” explained Fletcher, who is also St Lucia’s minister of sustainable development, energy, science, and technology.
He was speaking to The Gleaner following the 3 p.m. release of the latest text yesterday, which reflects the current state of play of the negotiations on issues such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, and mitigation.
The options the minister referred to are the so-called ‘bracketed text’, on which no consensus has been reached among countries. Until they are agreed, the brackets cannot be removed and there can be no final document.
Among the Caribbean’s particular areas of interest are loss and damage; 1.5 degrees Celsius as the target for a cap on greenhouse gas emission increases; and additional, predictable, and adequate financing.
“What has been happening since that draft text was distributed is that the various groups have been meeting to review the text to identify where there are possible areas of compromise, where there are significant red lines [points of no return] and issues that they cannot live with,” he said.
Once those groups – including the Alliance of Small Island States of which CARICOM countries form a part – come back, the process will move forward with a meeting of all countries, as they attempt to reach consensus on a final document.
In commenting on the work it would take to get there, one of Jamaica’s senior negotiators, Jeffrey Spooner, said: “It is not a hill but a mountain that we have to climb.
“And we all have to climb it, in the interest of the planet for the next generation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Spooner said there was no question of the Caribbean pressing home what it needs in order to ensure its survival in the face of climate impacts, including sea-level rise, coastal erosion, droughts, stronger hurricanes, among other things.
“By tomorrow [today], we will know exactly where we stand and, of course, we will still press for our concerns. ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ and loss and damage – these are two important items for us,” he said.
“By and large, all of our issues are on the table, and that is a good thing. What has to happen now is that we have to fight to ensure that not only do they remain on the table, but that they are reflected in the final text … “.