Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Civil society said key to climate justice for the Caribbean

Published:Friday | May 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Mclymont Lafayette
In this file photo, a farmer uses a bucket to water cabbages and cauliflower in Tryall, St Elizabeth, as drought grips sections of the island. With predictions for extreme weather such as drought, a lot of attention is being given to climate change, which threatens water security.

AS the countdown to the crucial December climate talks in Paris continues, civil society actors have been urged to action in furtherance of a stable climate future for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

"In our national context, there is a significant role for civil society to play, primarily to help Jamaica to become resilient," Dr Orville Grey, senior technical officer with responsibility for adaptation in the Climate Change Division (CCD), told The Gleaner recently.

"Separate and apart from that, most of them [civil society actors] are partners or collaborators with regional or international organisations. Being a part of those, they need to be articulating the stance of our region in discussions," he added.

That stance, Grey explained, entails:

- The region's particular vulnerability to climate change;

- The need for deep and binding greenhouse gas emission cuts, especially from developed countries; and

- Sustained investment in adaptation.

"We need our local entities to be having that sort of dialogue not just in the region, but also outside the region," he noted.

Indi Mclymont Lafayette, country director for Panos Caribbean, agreed. She noted that this is vital for the upcoming talks, which are widely expected to yield a new international deal on climate change.

"It is critical for civil society to be active [ahead of and during] the UN Climate Talks in Paris in December, because these talks will determine the very survival of us small island residents," she said.

"While our negotiators are fighting for targets that will help the Caribbean to respond to dangerous climate impacts, civil society groups need to be there supporting them and ensuring that First World countries like the United States are held accountable to climate targets," Mclymont Lafayette added.


Panos doing its part


Panos, whose mission is to promote sustainable development and social justice in the Wider Caribbean by empowering people to produce information and share perspectives on development issues, is itself looking to put its stamp on things.

"Panos is doing its part by mobilising a team of journalists and artistes from the region who can draw attention to the issues. These persons would be advocating for issues such as financing for the region to adapt to climate change so, for example, farmers affected by drought can have better water systems or improved readiness for hurricanes in the region etc," Mclymont Lafayette revealed.

"All of us have a responsibility to pay attention to climate change because we are already feeling the effects," she added.

Climate change threatens food and water security in the Caribbean, given predictions for warmer temperatures and more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts. There is, too, significant risk to life and livelihoods associated with sea level rise, given that much of the islands' infrastructure and key industries are located on the coastal.

Meanwhile, Grey said there was no question of the need for deepened engagement between climate negotiators and civil society. And Jamaica, he said, had been making efforts to that end.

They include the recent post-climate talks briefing, held to bring civil society and government stakeholders up to date on outcomes from the Lima negotiations. There is, too, he said, engagement with groups such as the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, and with international players.

"In Lima and Geneva, we have had groups that we have engaged with, who would have come to us to find out how they can lobby support and provide support on the ground or in the [negotiating] sessions," Grey said.

"One of the things that they have done is to put out technical papers on the issues we may have [and] engaged developed countries, because of their size, to influence them to accept or support the positions coming from small-island developing states," he added.

Globally, civil society actors have been making their voices heard in the interest of climate justice. At the Lima Talks last December, for example, environmental activists, together with trade unions, women's groups and others, marched through the streets of the capital demanding a just climate deal and protection from corporate interests.