Confronting Climate Change: A Shared And Global Responsibility

Climate change is recognized as a most serious threat facing humanity. No one is immune to its effects. The impact of climate variability and climate change on human and natural systems poses serious challenges to our objective of reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.

As stated in the preamble to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), "the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions".

In recent times, natural disasters and severe weather conditions have taken centre stage, touching lives and disrupting economic activities in both developed and developing countries. We can recall the Indian Ocean tsunami that affected Southeast Asia, floods and droughts of unimaginable magnitude in all parts of the world, the increased intensity of hurricanes in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean, and earthquakes in northern Pakistan and India. We are all at risk, although the vulnerability indices show that small island developing States like Jamaica are three times more susceptible than developed countries to the negative impacts of climate change.

Jamaica's economy and its social and physical infrastructure have, on numerous occasions, been impacted negatively by natural disasters, including storms of increased frequency and intensity. Furthermore, adapting to climate change and climate variability is a costly undertaking, which often goes beyond the financial capacity and resources of many Governments. Therefore, it is important that the various commitments from the international community become a reality.

Like many other countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica has embarked on a number of projects, with a view to building capacity to cope with the effects of climate change. Our limited individual efforts, however, can only take us so far. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has already pooled its efforts to establish the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. Located in Belize, the Centre assists in "mainstreaming" climate change issues in the development planning of countries in the region. It also provides expert forecasts and analysis of the potentially hazardous impacts of climate change and promotes special programmes that create opportunities for sustainable development.

As the region prepares for yet another hurricane season, I note with great concern the conclusions by the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II, predicting a continuous rise in global temperatures. It concluded, inter alia, that the world's lakes, coastal areas and rivers are already responding to the effects of a human-induced climate change, and that low-lying coastal and small island States in particular are most at risk due to the threat of sea-level rise. These developments will inevitably affect food security, fresh water supplies and biodiversity, and further challenge poverty-reduction goals.

We cannot take these findings lightly. In this respect, I welcome the IPCC report's recommendation for early and concerted action in order to minimize potentially devastating consequences. An international collaborative effort represents our best hope, as effectively confronting climate change must be a shared responsibility. I would like to point out that, although Jamaica's emissions of greenhouse gases can be considered quite small (less than 1 per cent of annual global emissions), we have already begun to play our part in mitigating the threats emanating from climate change. Jamaica has taken tangible and affirmative action, as a party to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, through the establishment of the Wigton Wind Farm, located in the southern part of the country. The project, which was partially funded by the Government of the Netherlands, has an estimated capacity of 20.7 megawatts of power and presently supplies approximately 7 MW to the national grid.

Within the Latin American and Caribbean region, targets have been set for the use of renewable energy sources to meet energy needs. Caribbean countries, like other small island developing States, have naturally been placing a great deal of emphasis on adaptation initiatives as a means of coping with climate change. However, given the cost of these measures, the support of the international community through technical and financial assistance, on a timely and sustainable basis, is an absolute necessity.

Jamaica further underscores the need for the efficient transfer of environmentally sound technologies, which would assist developing countries in addressing climate change and move them toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. As Sir Nicholas Stern, in his Review on the Economics of Climate Change, so aptly states, "climate change is global in its causes and consequences, and international collective action will be critical".
It is evident that long-term cooperative action is critical if there are to be meaningful results and change. As we approach the end of the first commitment period in 2012, for developed countries to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, such actions are even more critical. This fact is especially important for small and vulnerable island States, including Jamaica. It is time for the world to be decisive and take serious action to mitigate future impacts of climate change. Deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and the development, deployment and wide-scale use of clean renewable energy are also essential in achieving this goal.

At a time of unprecedented global awareness of the importance of climate, energy and water, and their relation to poverty alleviation, there is need for heightened focus on the challenge of achieving sustainable development issues. These advances are made in the hope that together we can build effective partnerships to confront what is a common concern of mankind.