Sun | Jun 24, 2018

Earth Today | Adaptation officer urges support for Climate Change Division

Published:Thursday | February 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMBY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR
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.
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DR ORVILLE Grey, who will shortly leave his role as senior technical officer for adaptation with the Climate Change Division, has urged enhanced government, private sector and civil society support for the entity.

To begin with, he said the division requires long-term, permanent staff to carry forward its work, which is to coordinate national actions on climate change.

"We still have not built out the division any further than it was (when it began more than four years ago). We are still at two technical officers, one principal director, and the administrative person; that is the division," Grey told The Gleaner.

"Everybody else - we have four persons now who support us - are consultants supported by projects and we know how projects go; they have a finite life. Many of these positions need to be part of the division officially because those positions are what we need to get where we need to go," he added.

FOCAL POINT NETWORK

That supporting cast includes a coordinator for the Climate Change Focal Point Network, comprised of representatives from ministries, departments and agencies of government, tasked with helping to ensure climate change considerations are integrated into policy planning and practice.

"The Focal Point Network is absolutely essential to our functioning, but we need the support of the leadership of not just the country but the various ministries to get it done. There is need for more. We need a more consistent and strong push to get everybody on the same agenda," he said.

"We need everybody to be singing from the same hymn sheet. We have the Climate Change Advisory Board that is there, up and functioning. And we do have arms that we can call in for support that have been helping us. But we need more support," he said.

That support could help to make or break the division on whose performance Jamaica's climate resilience rests, as reflected in the island's Climate Change Policy Framework and Action Plan.

POLICY FRAMEWORK

According to that document, "the CCD's ability to lead, facilitate and coordinate strategic support, advance resource mobilisation and develop innovative partnerships to effectively address climate change at national and local levels will be the litmus test of its success and Jamaica's transformation to a climate-resilient society".

The climate threat to lives and livelihoods that arise from warmer global temperatures, sea level rise, extreme weather events, among other impacts, is too great to have the division operate without the needed resources, Grey suggested.

"The hope is that everybody will come on board, especially recognising the challenges we have had in recent times: a major drought, a major wet year, significant flooding. We had no direct impacts from hurricanes but serious hurricane threats," he said.

"Two technical staff to provide technical information to inform policies, plans, programmes and to do that across government is not enough. The work load is heavy," Grey added.

Still, he said the division - currently led by UnaMay Gordon - had done an admirable job so far.

"Despite just the two technical officers (including one for mitigation) and the principal director, we have still been able to get a lot done with the assistance of the Focal Point Network and the Climate Change Advisory Board. Academia has (also) been of significant help, particularly the Climate Studies Group of Mona," he noted.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Among the things they have been able to accomplish are:

The completion of one adaptation (and mitigation) sector strategy and action plan;

The ratification of the Paris Agreement, which he describes as having been "a huge undertaking and achievement"; and

The production of the island's first nationally determined contributions to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

They have also been able to secure, through the Green Climate Fund, support for capacity building and have been working to ensure gender considerations are taken on board in climate change policy planning and action.

Still, there is some way to go for the division, which is mandated to not only seek financing for research, technology, training and knowledge management, but also to maintain regional and international engagement in climate change related negotiations and initiatives.

They are, too, along with their parent ministry, to, among other things, promote consultative processes to improve public participation in mitigation and adaptation response measures.

Ultimately, Grey said, every effort should be made to "get the country at a level where behaviour change is something that is not just a concept but a reality, where there is awareness of what climate change is, what it is likely to be, and how it will affects us as a people".

"That is where we need to be in a hurry," he noted.

- pwr.gleaner@gmail.com