Sun | Dec 17, 2017

'Help now, not after disasters'

Published:Monday | November 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Ian Allen/Photographer Prime Minister Andrew Hiolness at the Jamaica Labour Party’s 74th annual conference at the National Arena in Kingston yesterday.

With Caribbean states facing the brunt of what many believe to be the effects of climate change, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that pumping aid into countries hit by hurricanes was not necessarily the answer.

In a message to the international community, Holness said: "It is better to invest in climate resilience than to seek to give us aid after the damage is done."

Addressing party supporters and some members of the diplomatic corps yesterday at the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) 74th annual conference at the National Arena in Kingston, Holness said that the biggest challenge facing the Caribbean at this time is climate change.

Calling attention to the devastating effects caused by at least two hurricanes on Caribbean islands this year, Holness argued that in many cases, promises of financial aid to countries hit by natural disasters did not materialise.

He contended that small Caribbean states did not contribute in any significant way to climate change.

"Little Jamaica, little St Lucia, little Dominica, we didn't cause climate change. We cannot emit that much carbon to create a footprint on the world's climate but we are going to be the first to be affected by climate change."

Caribbean states, said Holness, are on the front lines of what is a clear and present danger.

"I want to appeal to the global community, to the international institutions. Hurry up and set a system in place where countries can make the investment in small island developing states like Jamaica, like St Lucia, like Dominica, so that we can build resilient infrastructure to withstand the impact of hurricanes and for us to recover quickly."

He said that Jamaica was doing its part to alleviate the effects of climate change.

Holness mentioned the preservation of the Cockpit Country by setting out clear boundaries for that extensive watershed area.

The prime minister also projected that by 2030, the country would be increasing its renewable energy supplies from the current 18 per cent to 30 per cent. However, Holness told the conference that he was looking at a more ambitious target of 50 per cent by 2030. "We are preserving the environment while securing your prosperity."

On the question of fuel for the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses, he said that the Government would be moving away from the heavy oil currently being used to liquid natural gas. This, he said, would result in "a cheaper source, a more environmentally friendly source, but more than that, a source that would cut down the cost and pilferage that happens at the JUTC."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com