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.”
Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.
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.
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 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.
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.
What will Donald Trump actually do?
It’s a question many Americans are asking themselves now that the U.S. has wrapped up one of its least policy-specific elections ever. The president-elect has offered only the loosest of legislative prescriptions, including whatever plans he may have for the energy industry.
The mystery hangs over turbine manufacturers like Vestas Wind Systems, which fell 12 percent since the election, and coal companies such as Peabody Energy Corp., which soared 73 percent. In his only major energy speech, Trump, 70, said he would rescind “job-destroying” environmental regulations within 100 days of taking office and revive U.S. coal. It’s terrible news for efforts to slow the pace of climate change, but the impact on the renewable energy revolution may be limited. Here’s what it could mean for America’s clean-energy darling, Tesla Motors Inc.:
Tesla is, first and foremost, an electric car company. But on Nov. 17 shareholders will vote on final approval of CEO Elon Musk’s $2.2 billion deal to buy SolarCity Corp. The acquisition would make Tesla the biggest U.S. rooftop solar installer and the first major manufacturer to integrate solar panels with battery backup to extend power into the night.
The swift spread of rooftop solar in the U.S. has been made possible by two government policies. First, most utilities are required to credit homeowners for the excess power they send back to the grid. Those requirements are state-level and shouldn’t be affected by Trump. Second is the 30 percent federal tax credit to offset the cost of installations. The credits were first signed into law under Republican President George W. Bush in 2005 and extended by a Republican Congress late last year. Given their broad support, the subsidies are unlikely to be repealed.
Solar panel prices have dropped, on average, more than 15 percent a year since 2013. On a utility scale, solar power is already cheaper than coal-fired grid electricity across most of the U.S., after subsidies. Even if the incentives were suddenly removed next year—an improbable and economically destructive scenario—the industry would eventually recover as prices continue to fall.
Incentives are designed to make superior new technologies initially affordable, but once those technologies take off, economies of scale take over.
A loss of the federal tax credit could slow the rollout of Tesla’s unusual new rooftop solar shingles. Traditional rooftop panels, however, are almost ready to stand on their own. The payback period currently ranges from about 5 to 10 years, after subsidies and state rebates. If Tesla can achieve the cost savings it hopes for with the merger, it won’t be long before that’s the payback timeline without subsidies.
One of President Barack Obama’s most significant climate achievements was to push through ambitious fuel-economy regulations for U.S. vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled next year to re-asses rules intended to double the average efficiency of cars and trucks to almost 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Those goals could be delayed or dismantled under Trump, accelerating America’s shift to trucks and SUVs. Stocks of Detroit carmakers have predictably surged, while Tesla shares fell 4.9 percent in the two days after the election.
This is obviously bad news for human health and the environment, but it’s impact on Tesla won’t be catastrophic. The price of batteries is dropping rapidly, and by the early 2020s electric cars should be cheaper and better performing than their gasoline-powered equivalents across the board. Lowering efficiency standards will make gasoline cars a bit cheaper to manufacture, but it will also make them more costly to drive over the life of the vehicle.
The U.S. push for electric cars was set in motion by a $7,500 federal tax break. The Trump administration could eliminate the subsidy, but the impact would be short-lived for electric pioneers including Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Tesla. That’s because the electric-vehicle subsidies were already designed to phase out after each automaker reaches its 200,000th domestic EV sale. Tesla may be first to cross that finish line, probably in the first half of 2018.
The incentives were intended to overcome steep startup costs and slow initial demand for new electric vehicles. Removing the tax break now would effectively pull the ladder up behind Tesla and make it more expensive for other automakers to transition to battery power, a result that wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest.
Some of the biggest incentives in renewable energy are offered by states, not the federal government. Each state has authority over its own solar and wind rebates, credits for power sold back to the grid, renewable-mix requirements for utilities, and electric-car subsidies. These policies cross ideological borders into deeply Republican states. For example, Louisiana residents can get an additional tax credit of almost $10,000 for buying a long-range electric car. In Colorado, it’s an extra $5,000.
The Canadian federal government has committed to powering all of its buildings and operations using renewable energy sources by 2025. The goal is in support of a broader target to reduce the government’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030.
Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of environment and climate change, announced the new commitments while speaking at the Canadian Wind Energy Association conference in Calgary on Wednesday. In a press release from the government, McKenna commented, “We are taking action on climate change by greening our government’s activities and are doing our part to make further progress toward Canada’s emissions target. We will do more as we develop our pan-Canadian climate plan – a plan that will create good jobs for the benefit of Canadians, especially the middle class and those striving to join it.”
In its release, the government notes that although the GHG-reduction target is set for 2030, it aspires to meet the goal by as early as 2025. By that date, the government continues, Public Services and Procurement Canada – the government’s principal landlord – will be purchasing 100% of its electricity from clean energy sources. The government notes that its Department of National Defense will be buying a significant amount of renewable electricity for its installations in Alberta. This will meet most of the electricity requirements for installations in Calgary, Cold Lake, Edmonton, Wainwright and Suffield.
John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), has lauded the government’s new initiatives.
“The federal government’s commitment to purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity from sources, such as solar energy, as early as 2025 makes a significant contribution to Canada’s innovation and environmental protection agenda in two ways,” said Gorman in a statement.
“Firstly, they have the purchasing power to make a difference. Not only will their actions directly displace significant levels of greenhouse gas emissions, it will also give rise to new businesses and infrastructure.
“Secondly,” he continued, “being a part of the global response to climate change will bring changes to the decisions that are made by all consumers for goods, products and services. By leading by example, the government of Canada is demonstrating that every one of us has a role to play in making the right decision for future generations.”
In addition to renewable energy procurement, the government says it will make strategic investments in vehicle fleets and infrastructure. For example, the government says it will invest in revitalizing the heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region, which provide services to more than 85 buildings and facilities. That investment is expected to modernize six separate facilities and reduce their emissions by more than 45%, according to the government.
The announcement did not provide many details regarding planned renewable energy procurements, including solar’s potential role; however, the government says it is establishing a new team, called the Center for Greening Government, to track the government’s emissions centrally, coordinate efforts across agencies and drive results to ensure the objectives are met.
Notably, these new initiatives are just the latest signs of hope that the Canadian government has provided to the country’s fledgling solar industry, which had only about 2.5 GW of cumulative installed capacity by the end of 2015. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed Canada to the Paris Agreement, and in June, he united with U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to set a goal of achieving 50% clean power generation in North America by 2025. Furthermore, in October, the government introduced a nationwide carbon pollution pricing plan.