Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
A simple but resounding call to action echoed last week at the closing and awards ceremony of the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project as experts warned of the dangers facing Jamaica.
The appeal for change was directed to Jamaicans across the length and breadth of a country which has contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions but is among those most likely to be affected by climate change.
The experts warned that this reality is dictating that Jamaica must begin to act decisively now to reduce the many negative impacts of climate change.
They pointed to the greater frequency and increasing devastation from natural disasters in recent years as a graphic and often tragic reminder of just how serious an impact climate change is having on the country.
It is estimated that Hurricane Sandy which brushed Jamaica in October 2012 cost the country $9.7 billion, even though it did not hit directly.
It was the recognition of the need to improve Jamaica's resilience to cope with natural disasters and reduce the risks associated with them that was the major plank of the 38-month Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project which ran from October 2010 to December 2013.
It involved physical rehabilitation in coastal and forestry areas, the training of residents and special interest group in vulnerable communities on protecting these areas, as well as supporting policy reform relating to climate change.
The European Union (EU) was the major financial backer of the project, with the Government of Jamaica and the United Nations Environment Programme also contributing.
Head of delegation of the EU in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei, told the ceremony that protecting the livelihood of thousands of Jamaica is not a luxury but a necessity, especially since its economic and social sustainability is heavily dependent on its natural resources and health of its ecosystems.
"In Jamaica, two-thirds of the population live in coastal areas; 75 per cent of Jamaica's industries and services, generating some 90 per cent of gross domestic production, are located within two kilometres of the coast. Its major cities are built on the shores and the forest cover of the mountains limit floods," noted Ambassador Amadei.
She declared that sustainable growth which will benefit future generations of Jamaicans is not based on the ill-fated alternative between development and environmental protection, as the two go hand in hand.
"A careful environmental assessment of all projects is not a new fad but a necessity; to avoid that the choices of today lock the future generations in (to) insurmountable patterns of life."
The destroyed home of Corena Stewart in Grange Hill, Portland, after the passage of Hurricane Sandy. - File