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Make climate change a personal issue - US diplomat

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Errol Paisley (third left) of Stony Hill, St Andrew, accepts from Joshua Polacheck, counsellor for Public Affairs at the United States (US) Embassy, the $150,000 reward for the community’s winning effort of collecting 1,250 pounds of PET bottles in less than a month during Operation Clean Sweep. Also sharing in the occasion are project director Stephen Newland (second left) and Dr Kwame Emmanuel, global change co-ordiantor, during Wednesday’s prize-giving ceremony at the US, Embassy, Liguanea, St Andrew.

Addressing the issue of global climate change in a meaningful way can begin with small actions which, together, will have a big impact on containing carbon emissions, according to Joshua Polacheck, counsellor for public affairs at the United States (US) Embassy in Jamaica.

"People don't think about it, but when you take a plastic bottle and just chuck it into the landfill or into the countryside and it ends up incinerated, you are adding to all the other carbons and other greenhouse effects, but if you recycle it, you are actually helping, in your own small part, to keep the global climate within manageable levels," he pointed out on Wednesday.

"People may think, 'oh, this is just a small local thing', a question of beautification and resource use (but), it's actually part of that small step that each of us needs to take to change our behaviour to help combat global climate change," the State Department official told the Operation Clean Sweep prize-giving ceremony at the US Embassy, Liguanea, St Andrew.

Polacheck told participants in the recently concluded pilot project, under which community members from Rae Town, Kingston, Stony Hill, St Andrew, and Gregory Park, St Catherine were trained in solid waste best practices, that they needed to make climate change a personal concern.

"We think that for all countries, especially regional leaders like Jamaica and other small island developing states like the rest of CARICOM, like the countries in the South Pacific, it should be a very personal issue. It's also a very personal issue for the United States," he disclosed.

While it may not be something that comes readily to mind, the extensive coastline of the United States' mainland, as well as the location of offshore territories such as Hawaii, makes the country and its citizens very vulnerable to the fallout from climate change, Polacheck disclosed.

He explained that the state of Arizona, which has extensive desert terrain, has had one of the worst droughts in a century, due mainly to the recent increase in global average temperatures.

 

Reducing the fallout

 

With the recent international agreement on reducing carbon emission struck at the Conference of Parties (COP) 21, in Paris, presenting an opportunity for the world at large, the United States of America, which has taken a leadership role, will be looking to ramp up its collaboration with Jamaica on containing and reducing the fallout from climate change, especially at the grass-roots level.

"So the efforts that we're making globally are going be part of the efforts we are doing on a bilateral level locally, here with Jamaica," said Polacheck.

Meanwhile, Stephen Newland, project director for the pilot phase of Operation Clean Sweep, commended members from three select communities for their success in putting to good use the training in solid-waste management.

Residents of Stony Hill, St Andrew, took the top prize of $150,000 for the winning effort of collecting 1,250 pounds of PET bottles in less than a month.

With an average of 33 eight-ounce bottles weighing a pound, and 3,300 bottles estimated at 100lb, the number of bottles collected in and around the community since November 13 was mind-boggling.

For their efforts, residents of Rae Town, Kingston, who logged just about 200 pounds of bottles less than the winners, received $50,000, with Gregory Park, St Catherine, being the other community.

Dr Kwame Emmanuel, USAID/COMET 11's global change coordinator, pointed to the other significant benefits of plastic-bottle collection and recycling beyond the monetary gains.

"For COMET (Community Empowerment and Transfor-mation), Operation Clean Sweep facilitated another opportunity to bolster social cohesion through the implementation of an environmental activity. The project also provided the communities with a social entrepreneurship idea, which will help to tackle the solid waste management crisis. Moving forward, it is hoped that the management team not only takes the consideration of lessons learnt during this short pilot, but also integrates the other two Rs - reduce and reuse - into the project."