Ministry answers concerns over non-ratification of Paris Agreement
The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation has sought to quiet concerns over Jamaica's failure to ratify the Paris Agreement, ahead of the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, being held in Marrakech this month.
"We will be at the COP, and we negotiate as a part of a block, so we will still be able in the different bodies - the Group of 77 and China and the Alliance of Small Island States - to have our voices be heard there. So we will still have an opportunity to influence," said Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the ministry.
"So yes, we wanted to be there as one that has ratified, but because of the processes that we have to go through, we are regrettably not there," he added.
Khan's response comes in the wake of a recent caution from Dr James Fletcher, Saint Lucia's former minister of sustainable development and former head of the CARICOM Task Force on Sustainable Development.
"Given that the Paris Agreement will enter into force in the Marrakech meeting ... if you haven't ratified the Paris Agreement, then really you cannot be at the table determining rules and procedures and everything else," Fletcher told The Gleaner at the recent Caribbean Renewable Energy Conference in Miami.
"If you have not ratified the agreement, then you don't have a voice at the meeting. There will be CARICOM countries there (who share similar challenges) and who will speak on your behalf, but I don't think it is a position you want to be in because you cannot articulate your own concerns," he added.
Against this background, Fletcher - well respected in climate change negotiating circles and who was patron of the 1.5 to Stay Alive campaign run by regional partners, including Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Caribbean Development Bank, last year and into this year - urged those islands that had not yet ratified to do so.
Jamaica is one of five CARICOM member states that have not yet done so. The others are Haiti, Montserrat, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Meanwhile, Fletcher has itemised significant emissions reduction and the freeing of climate finance flows as key areas on which Caribbean islands - counted among those most vulnerable to climate change, which threatens extreme weather events, the likes of Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged several islands recently - should push for action at this COP.
"... the situation is ominous; the projections are all showing that our area will be one of the hardest hit by climate change and we don't have the funds to adapt," he noted.
"We are really are saying to our residents that they are in for a very bleak future when we should be saying, having signed the (Paris) agreement, we can now assure that the climate finance is going to flow and action is going to be taken to reduce greenhouse gases to get us close to 1.5," he added.
"We are not in a good place where bending that temperature curve is concerned and making finance more readily available to SIDS (small island developing states) is one way to get there," he said.
Among other things, the Paris Agreement seeks to hold "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change".
It was a goal fought hard for by Caribbean islands who put the weight of negotiators such as Fletcher and the creative energies of musicians and artists from across the region - including Jamaicans Aaron Silk and Minori Russell, Saint Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte and artist Jonathan Gladding - behind the 1.5 To Stay Alive campaign.