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Local Government Ministry To Do More to Prepare for Climate Change

Published:Saturday | June 11, 2016 | 6:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and community development, says his ministry will be placing more emphasis on building the country's resilience to the challenges brought about by climate change.

He said that there has to be a new approach to dealing with disasters.

"We must be prepared because the world is changing. We have to start thinking of elevating local authorities to develop new skills. Local government has to be seen more than just providing jobs to clean drains. The word disaster supersedes any political party or colour," he said.

EFFECT ON GDP

McKenzie said natural disasters continue to account for a larger percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and, as such, more has to be done to mitigate against their devastating effects.

He was speaking at a signing ceremony held at the ministry's offices on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew.

The Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change along with their donor agency, the United States Agency for International Development, on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

The MOU will help to facilitate improved planning and coordination of climate and disaster-risk reduction activities at the national and municipal levels.

"The timing of this signing is significant as it comes with the start of the hurricane season. We all know that our national budget cannot and will never be able to finance what is required to effectively deal with and respond to a crisis," he said.

He noted that Jamaica has been impacted by hurricanes, tropical storms, troughs and drought, and the average cost to the Jamaican economy since 2001 is 2.7 per cent of GDP.

Additionally, he pointed out that over the last 20 years, it has cost Jamaican taxpayers US$1 billion to respond to natural disasters.

He warned that Jamaicans should be vigilant and keep abreast of the latest developments in climate change.