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.”
President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.
In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.
This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.
But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.
She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.
Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.
This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.
And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.
He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.
CEO of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, says the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is using scare tactics to keep businesses from leaving the grid and turning to alternative energy.
In a recent interview with the Gleaner newspaper, JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin was quoted as saying that it could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave their grid.
Robinson says could mitigate any losses from clients who’ve switched to alternative energy by running a more efficient operation and doing more to combat theft.
He says JPS is already doing a lot to diversify its own fuel sources to keep energy costs down.
And, Robinson is also criticizing the power company for being hypocritical.
He claims JPS has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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”.