Climate change committee future still uncertain
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
EIGHT MONTHS after Jamaica's Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC) ended its first sitting, the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change remains silent on its future.
Attempts to get a comment from Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill on the matter proved futile this week. But Dr Conrad Douglas, chairman of the 25-member committee up to April 19, when the first term ended, said the island could hear something formally within the first quarter of next year.
At the same time, he said he remained chairman, with only the appointment of additional members outstanding.
"The new committee is yet to be formally established, but I am still in place as the chairman. What is outstanding is for the members of the committee to be named," he told The Gleaner.
"Some of [the old members], I am certain, will be reappointed, given their outstanding service and expertise. But I know it will be smaller [in size] from preliminary discussions," he added.
Those discussions, he said, have been held with the Minister Pickersgill and the Permanent Secretary Dr Alwin Hales.
Group can be smaller
"It is not necessary to have it as large as it started out for the reasons that we have moved to establish the climate change focal points and done so successfully with some 27 focal points in place ... and there is now a Climate Change Division," Douglas said further.
Launched in April 2012, the CCAC — manned by some of the island's brightest minds, including Nobel Peace Prize winner and physicist Professor Anthony Chen - was established to advance Jamaica's planning for climate change, with a focus on the establishment of a Climate Change Department turned Division.
Speaking at the official launch two years ago, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the committee had its work cut out for it.
"My charge to you, members of this advisory committee, is a simple one: that we need to get our own house in order through appropriate actions, we must become strong, converted advocates with all other peoples of the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must increase the use of renewable energy and other sustainable forms of energy in our systems of production," she said then.
"It is not beyond us to solve this problem and I certainly look forward to our own creative, scientific and technological contributions to this process," Simpson Miller added.
Douglas said Tuesday that the strategic focus of the new committee, once formally appointed next year, will be to provide advice to the minister and the Climate Change Division on research, science and technology within the context of a changing climate and awareness raising.
"There are certain areas that we must lend a lot of advice to, especially areas for research and how to structure research programmes and engage various institutions and individuals in conducting research on climate change," he noted. "There are several things we don't know now that we will need to get to know because there are going to be some serious impacts related to, for example food security, and the quantity and quality of our produce. Research then is going to be critically important."
"Another thing is really to continue to provide the CCD and the minister with advice on the whole climate change [scenario] and how it stands to impact the nation. And the minister can, in turn, advise his Cabinet colleagues and the nation through Parliament," Douglas added.