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Earth Today | Orville Grey waves bye-bye to Climate Change Division

Published:Wednesday | February 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMBY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR
Dr Orville Grey (right) in action at the international negotiating table.
Dr Orville Grey (left) 'talks shop' with Jeffrey Spooner (centre), former head of the Meteorological Service, and Clifford Mahlung, one of Jamaica's seasoned climate negotiators, at a consultation session in 2015.

DR ORVILLE Grey is one of Jamaica’s rising stars in climate change circles. But he is shortly to trek across the globe to South Korea to serve the Green Climate Fund (GCF), waving goodbye to his island home – if only for a while.

The holder of a PhD in environmental biology, Grey is currently the senior technical officer for adaptation in the Climate Change Division (CCD). After four and half years in that job, his move is bittersweet.

“There is some amount of excitement; it is a new adventure. There is also some amount of trepidation; it is not like moving to Canada or the US or the UK. It is a totally different culture, a different side of the world. But I am always up for a challenge so I am looking forward to it,” he told The Gleaner.

“It is bittersweet because I don’t know that my job here is complete. I still feel there is so much I can do here. But the experience, the expertise to be gained could prove very valuable for Jamaica and the region in the long run,” he added.

Grey, who has coordinated and led on adaptation matters for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and CARICOM, will shortly leave the island to fill his new role, which is to involve adaptation-related work.

“The expertise and experience to be gained at that level – understanding the country, the people, the way they do things, how similar and/or how different we are in trying to achieve the same purpose, being able to help move these things from paper to funding and actual implementation – is something I have been interested in,” he said.

“So it is just being able to do a lot of what I have been doing here, using a greater platform to reach more small-island developing states across the world and developing countries in general,” added Grey.

The GCF was set up in 2010, as part of its financial mechanism for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change, delivering equal amounts of funding to adaptation and mitigation, while being guided by the UNFCCC’s principles and provisions. 


Grey anticipates that should he opt at the end of his contract to return to the Caribbean, he will do so with a wealth of experience that can benefit the region. This notwithstanding, the decision to go, he said, had not been easy.

“It was a very difficult decision because I really love my job. But I look on it and say Jamaica will need this kind of assistance … And if at the end, I say I want to come back home and the government is willing to take me back on board, I would have no faculty coming back,” said the man, who also represents Jamaica as part of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean on the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.

The mechanism was established at the global climate talks in Poland in 2013 to address loss and damage associated with climate impacts, including extreme and slow-onset events, in developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change.

The functions of the mechanism include enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

Grey is the last of the original CCD staff. Albert Daley, who served as the first principal director, retired while Gerald Lindo, who was the senior technical officer for mitigation, resigned to take up a position with the United States Agency for International Development.

Looking back, Grey lists among the things he is most proud:

The ratification of the Paris Agreement, which he describes as having been “a huge undertaking and achievement”;
The production of the island’s first nationally determined contributions to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and
The completion of one adaptation (and mitigation) sector strategy and action plan.

On putting his own stamp on things at the international level, he said:
“I think I have been able to contribute to Jamaica’s position regionally and international through participation in AOSIS and on committees. But it is not an Orville Grey thing; it is a Jamaica thing. It has been about pushing the agenda for Jamaica, highlighting the challenges and the needs that we have to get the type of support that we need.”