Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
JAMAICA'S NEW climate- change policy, which is to steer local efforts to ready the island for extreme weather events and a raft of other climate-related risks, will shortly be open for public scrutiny.
Lt Colonel Oral Khan, the chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, made the revelation recently.
"The minister (Robert Pickersgill) had promised that he would be sending the climate-change policy framework and action plan to Cabinet; it has been sent. Cabinet has reviewed it and it will shortly be opened up to further public consultation, after its tabling in Parliament as a Green Paper," he said.
Cabinet, Khan added, has already given the nod for the document to be sent to Parliament.
"Cabinet has said we can take it to Parliament. I am not sure about the agenda at Parliament, but we will seek to have it tabled as quickly as possible so we can open it up for consultation. I am hoping that we can get through this consultative process before we get into the mad rush at Christmas. Consultations normally run for about four to six weeks," he noted.
Opening the document to public consultation is in line with the principles that have governed its creation and which are to inform its application.
The policy framework and action plan represent more than a year of collaborative work, undertaken by consultants such as the Jamaican Environment Trust's legal director Danielle Andrade.
According to the chief technical director in the ministry, the policy, altogether, "sets out a mission, certain principles and the approach we are going to take to manage the whole responsibility of climate change and how the Government of Jamaica will approach this phenomena of climate change".
Specifically, he said that it:
Addresses adaptation (adjustment to climate impacts) and mitigation (reducing the severity of climate impacts through, for example, cutting greenhouse gas emissions);
Highlights flagship programmes and different initiatives to help Jamaica tackle climate change;
Identifies the need for climate change focal points in each ministry and for each sector to develop their own detailed sector action plans.
"So the policy framework does not go into detailed action, (which is deliberate) in order to facilitate greater ownership by the sectors and by the other ministries," Khan said.
"We are having that next phase where the sectors and the ministries will be involved in the development of the various sector plans," he added.
"Once the white paper has been approved, then we will launch it to that phase, starting next year," Khan predicted.
Meanwhile, the stated objectives of the policy include to:
Mainstream climate considerations into sectoral and financial planning.
Another of the policy objectives is to improve communication of climate change impacts so that the decision makers and the general public can be better informed.
Jamaica is counted among those countries of the world most vul-nerable to climate change impacts, which, according to information emanating from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, include warmer global temperatures, increased sea surface temperatures, as well as increased and/or more severe weather events such as hurricanes and droughts.
The island's vulnerability is due not only its small size and location, but also its economy, which relies on industries such as tourism and agriculture that are likely to suffer significant climate change blows.