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.
THE average Jamaican, while being aware of worsening beach erosion, hotter temperatures and an increased mosquito population, does not necessarily know that excessive amounts of green-house gases belched into the air by industrial processes is at the root of the problem. Neither does he know how to address it.
For that reason, the Government has declared November 28 – December 3 Climate Change Awareness Week and plans to engage policymakers, business leaders, academia, the media, young people and the wider public through a series of events.
“Climate Change Awareness Week is designed to build awareness about climate change and its impacts,” chief technical director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Lt Col Oral Khan told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
“The climate is changing already and will continue to change and if we’re not prepared the effects will be disastrous for us,” he added.
The slate of activities for the week includes a journalism training workshop, a two-day workshop for the scientific coomunity at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters, a meeting with members of the Youth Environmental Advocacy Programme (YEAP) and high school students from across the country, a session with permanent secretaries, and a two-day Climate Smart Expo at Emancipation Park on December 2-3.
The week coincides with a regional outreach visit to Jamaica by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) intended to:
1. Raise awareness in the region about the IPCC, its role, activities and workplan for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6);
2. Present the outcome of the Fifth Assessment Report AR5 and demonstrate how climate change is affecting the region;
3. Enlist the participation of the local science and research community in climate research and encourage regional participation in AR6; and
4. Foster a better understanding among the news media about climate science, solutions to climate change and the IPCC process.
Khan, as well as project administrator and senior climate negotiator in the Climate Change Division Clifford Mahlung — who was part of Jamaica’s delegation to COP22 in Marrakech over the last two weeks; founder of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, Mona, nobel laureate and professor emeritus Anthony Chen; physicist Dr Tannecia Stephenson; and managing director of Environmental Solutions Limited Eleanor Jones were guests of the newspaper at its weekly Monday Exchange
When Blue Mountain Renewables (BMR) began operating its 36-megawatt wind farm in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, a few months ago, the facility became Jamaica’s largest private-sector renewable energy project.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley, who gave the keynote address at the official opening on August 11, pointed out that the wind farm would help to diversify the country’s energy matrix and ease the dependence on imported fossil fuels.
“The wind farm is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by about 66,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, roughly equivalent to taking 13,000 cars off the road,” he informed.
Wheatley also applauded the relationship and assistance the company has given to the neighbouring schools, Munro College and Hampton High, as well as the treatment of farmers in St Elizabeth who were affected during the construction phase.
Principal of Hampton High Heather Murray said that she could literally see the ‘wind of change’ with the advent of the BMR wind project.
She bemoans the fact that nearly a quarter of her school’s budget is spent on high electricity cost, money that could be spent on building a state-of-the-art science laboratory.
“BMR brings hope and we welcome them wholeheartedly. We are also excited about the efforts to go green and we are doing our part here at Hampton. Earlier this year, we swapped all fluorescent light bulbs for more environmentally friendly LED bulbs,” Murray stated.
She also informed that Hampton had installed about 12 solar panels to integrate renewable energy into their electric supply. The panels, combined with small wind turbines on the campus, now provide about one-fifth of the school’s energy needs, she noted.
The BMR Jamaica Wind project will serve thousands of customers annually. Power will be sold to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company, under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. This electricity is expected to be among the lowest cost sources of power available on the JPS system.
Jamaica currently relies on oil imports to meet 90 per cent of its energy needs. This leaves the country vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices, which can make it difficult to budget and plan effectively.
To ease the dependence, the country has set a target to generate 30 per cent of its energy from local renewable sources such as hydro, wind and solar power by 2030.
President of BMR Bruce Levy said construction of the project was made easier by the cooperation of the Potsdam residents and the appreciation they showed for the work being done in their community.
“We made sure there was significant benefit to the local and wider community, with billions of dollars of direct spending and employment of hundreds of Jamaicans during construction. We say, without any fear of contradiction, that we are committed to community development,” he said.
Levy informed that the wind farm was made possible through a US$62.7 million financing package, including a US$42.7 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); a US$10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and a US$10 million loan from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme. BMR Energy provided an equity investment of US$26.9 million.
The biggest federal policy development of the year for renewables plays out on Congress’ last day of work in 2015.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a spending package today that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.
The pair of bills, which included tax extenders and $1.1 trillion in funding to keep the government running for the next year, passed hours before lawmakers adjourned for the holidays.
“May the force be with you,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging her fellow Senators to vote in favor of the package shortly after the House approved the bills.
The force was certainly with renewables.
Under the legislation, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022.
The 2.3-cent Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind will also be extended through next year. Projects that begin construction in 2017 will see a 20 percent reduction in the incentive. The PTC will then drop 20 percent each year through 2020.
Also included were geothermal, landfill gas, marine energy and incremental hydro, which will each get a one-year PTC extension. Those technologies will also qualify for a 30 percent ITC, if developers choose. In addition, the bill expanded grants for energy and water efficiency.
Business groups and analysts say the extensions will support tens of billions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of thousands of new jobs throughout the U.S.
“There’s no way to overstate this — the extension of the solar ITC is the most important policy development for U.S. solar in almost a decade,” said MJ Shiao, GTM’s director of solar research.
According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will help spur nearly 100 cumulative gigawatts of solar installations by 2020, resulting in $130 billion in total investment. More than $40 billion of investment will be “directly attributable to the passage of the extension,” said Shiao.
The American Wind Energy Association expects similar growth. The group did not issue precise figures, but said the PTC extension would support tens of gigawatts of new wind projects through 2020.
The legislation also lifts a 40-year ban on exports of crude oil produced in the U.S. In exchange for lifting the ban, Democrats pushed for multi-year extensions of renewable energy tax credits and demanded that Republicans strip out any riders that would weaken environmental laws.
Both sides got what they wanted.
However, Pelosi publicly worried yesterday that she didn’t have enough votes to support the bill. Many Democrats expressed concern about the oil export ban tradeoff, saying it would increase subsidies to fossil fuels and boost carbon emissions.
Congressional leaders and the White House lobbied hard to convince the Democratic base that the bill would be a win for the environment.
“While lifting the oil export ban remains atrocious policy, the wind and solar tax credits in the Omnibus will eliminate around 10 times more carbon pollution than the exports of oil will add,” wrote Pelosi in a letter to lawmakers.
Katherine Hamilton, a partner with 38 North Solutions, called the bill “sausage-making at its most intense.”
“The product should be palatable for most parties in clean energy. Extensions for renewables and efficiency tax credits were key sweeteners. In addition, clean energy R&D funding, land and water conservation funds, and clean energy funds were included in the deal,” she said.
Other independent analysts found that the deal would be a net positive for the climate. Although emissions would increase slightly because of increased drilling activity, they would be easily offset by increasing renewable energy development and decreased coal consumption.
“Our bottom line: Extension of the tax credits will do far more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years than lifting the export ban will do to increase them. While this post offers no judgment of the budget deal as a whole, the deal, if passed, looks like a win for climate,” wrote Council on Foreign Relations fellows Michael Levi and Varun Sivaram.
The tax credit extensions cap a big month for renewable energy policy.
In early December, world leaders agreed to a framework for lowering global greenhouse gas emissions — a deal that will leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment for clean technologies.
And earlier this week, California regulators issued a new proposal on net metering that would preserve the retail rate paid to rooftop solar systems. The new rules — combined with the continued federal tax credit — will ensure strong activity in the top solar state.
National groups will now likely reset their sights on local battles around the U.S., said Hamilton.
“The renewable energy industries can turn their focus to state and local policies, siting and permitting issues, and compliance strategies for the Clean Power Plan,” she said.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law today.
The new global climate deal, reached after two weeks of intense negotiations, is a signal to the private sector, local and international, of the need to reassess current investment flows.
Jamaican negotiator Dr Orville Grey said the private sector will be critical, given the stated goal of the new deal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 28C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.58C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
“The private sector will at some point have to take the lead because the technologies that are likely to take us to carbon neutrality will likely come from the private sector and not the public sector, at least as it relates to technology,” Grey, coordinator for adaptation for the Alliance of Small Island States during the negotiations, told The Gleaner.
If the world is to meet the ‘well-below-two’ target, it will require a significant shift in the current high levels of consumption of fossil fuels, including coal and oil, towards renewables such as solar and wind.
Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change and himself a member of the Jamaica delegation to the talks, was in full agreement.
“The private sector is encouraged under this agreement to support the mobilisation of finance to support adaptation and mitigation,” he said.
On Jamaica’s private sector, Khan said: “The State has submitted its intended nationally determined contribution commitment to [reducing greenhouse gas emissions] to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Secretariat. Our commitment is consistent with the goal of our National Energy Policy. I would say to the private sector, look at investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In time, I hope that we will see more entities entering into public-private partnerships.”
Neither Grey nor Khan is alone in their thinking; international leaders in business have echoed their sentiments.
“The business case for eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050 is irrefutable. Indeed, solving climate change presents the greatest economic and social development opportunity of our time,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, in a release to the media on Saturday.
“The new climate agreement is a historic turning point. Now business can and must innovate to lead the transition to a clean economy. Together, it is our duty as human beings, responsible citizens and business leaders to protect the environment. A transition to a clean and green economy will lift millions out of poverty, and ensure the planet’s health for generations to come,” he added.
Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, mirrored his comments.
“This is truly a turning point in human history. We now have the chance to advance the well-being of people everywhere, while creating millions of new jobs and ending our reliance on fossil fuels,” she said in the same release.
“This will help us build a safer, more peaceful world for all. This is exactly what business needs in order to thrive in the long run,” added Huffington.
This week Paris hosts nearly 200 governments at the climate talk in hopes to agree a deal that keeps the dangers of global warming in check. In light of this historic event taking place, Solar Buzz Jamaica wants to educate you on what you can do to save the planet for the generations to come.
What is global warming?
Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are released by burning of fossil fuels, land clearing, agriculture, and other human activities believed to be the primary sources of the global warming.
Resulting from this, the catastrophic climate change that has occurred in the last 50 years doesn’t just threaten our health, but our environments, homes, food and water supplies as well as the survival of many species.
What can be done?
Eat less meat – agriculture produces high levels of greenhouse gases.
Burn less turf – it doesn’t just cause biodiversity damage, but is more carbon-intensive than coal.
Reduce, reuse, recycle – recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
Choose renewable power – this is one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.
Benefits of going solar to combat climate change:
Solar energy can be easily utilised by both home and business and requires lower setup costs as compared to other renewable solutions.
Non-polluting: Solar energy is an alternative for fossil fuels as it is non-polluting, clean, reliable and renewable source of energy. It does not pollute the air by releasing harmful gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide or sulphur oxide. So damage to the environment is reduced.
Renewable Source: Solar energy is a renewable source of energy as it can be used to produce electricity as long as the sun exists. Solar energy reduces our dependence on the grid, lowers monthly bills, and can be used to harness power in the most remote locations.
Low maintenance: Solar systems generally don’t require much maintenance and run for a long time, they create no noise and have no moving parts. More solar panels can be added from time to time when needed. Initial cost tends to be recovered within 4-6 years.
Going solar can truly lower your carbon footprint while funnelling clean energy into the grid and into our homes and businesses. Green financing is becoming more readily available as climate awareness grows.
Be apart of something great, help combat climate change in your home and business.
Climate awareness + renewable sustainability = save the earth.