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COUNTDOWN TO COP-21: Jamaica’s climate negotiators court public support

Published:Friday | October 2, 2015 | 10:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

From Kingston to Montego Bay, Jamaica's climate change negotiators have been courting public support for their efforts while educating people about the troubling phenomenon.

Their actions come ahead of the global climate talks/Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as COP-21, set for December in Paris, France.

"We want to have increasing awareness at the national and community levels among key target groups, which would include the private sector, youth and civil society, on the importance of the climate change negotiations to be held in Paris and the significance for small-island developing states (SIDS), and Jamaica in particular," said Gerald Lindo, a Jamaican negotiator and the officer responsible for mitigation in the Climate Change Division (CCD).

"We also want to enhance the preparation of our climate change negotiators through targeted and comprehensive consultations with the key groups," he added.

With funding support from the Third National Communication and Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC; the United Nations Development Programme and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean), the team from the CCD have so far participated in a series of town hall meetings and workshops and done media interviews to spread the word on the island's negotiating position.

As part of that negotiating position, Jamaica has joined with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), of which it is a member, in its position that "a two-degree global temperature goal is insufficiently ambitious and that what is needed is limiting warming to below 1.5? Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to ensure the survival of small island states".

universal participation

It is also looking to ensure that "a framework exists for addressing loss and damage from human-induced climate change", according to a document shared at a national journalists' training workshop at the Liguanea Club in Kingston yesterday.

The island wants, too, "universal participation in the climate deal, along with a robust means of ensuring transparency of action and support", as well as to have gaps in the current financial architecture addressed.

This includes "the shortage of funding for on-the-ground adaptation in the most vulnerable countries and barriers to accessing resources for those capacity-constrained countries such as SIDS".

Meanwhile, Lindo noted that in addition to sharing the negotiating position and climate change messages generally, they are also keen to secure public input.

"The deal [to be signed in Paris] won't be perfect, so the question is, what we are willing to accept in terms of compromise and what are our red-line issues? We have some idea of what some of those are already, but we are listening to the people, the Government and other stakeholders," he told The Gleaner.

Their efforts - which form a pre-Paris outreach and education campaign with the tagline 'Decision Time Now', have not, however, been without challenges.

"The feedback has been good, the crowds have responded well. But we need to make sure we get the right people in the room. [The meeting in] Mandeville [for example] was well attended, but there was a preponderance of students," he explained.

Still, Lindo said they would stay the course, with one of the next planned meetings to take the form of a panel discussion to be held in Kingston in November.

"For the next two meetings, we are redoubling our efforts for the outreach and follow-up," he posited.

Climate change threatens not only increased global temperatures, the effects of which Jamaicans have been feeling, but also sea-level rise, which threatens coastal livelihoods, as well as more extreme weather events, including droughts and more intense storms.

Those climate impacts require a global response, the precise details of which countries have been negotiating for years, with a culmination expected in December, with the signing of a new deal.

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