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Jamaica stays course on new climate change agreement

Published:Friday | May 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM

AS THE 2015 deadline for a new international climate-change agreement nears, Jamaica is continuing its lobby for one that is legally binding and gives special consideration to small-island developing states (SIDS), concerning emissions reduction.

"We are working to have a new agreement by the end of next year. So far, we have some relevant decisions taken in Warsaw that will significantly advance the process," Jamaica's senior climate negotiator Clifford Mahlung, told The Gleaner, referencing the international climate talks held in Poland last November.

"Parties can now develop nationally determined contributions. These are mitigation actions to reduce emissions that will form their commitments for reducing greenhouse gases in the new agreement," he added.

It is, he said, a step in the right direction.

"This is a bottom-up approach where parties are given the opportunity to bring forth and have inscribed in the new agreement just what they think they can contribute. This process is applicable to all parties - developed and developing countries, and even the SIDS and the LDCs (least-developed countries)," noted Mahlung, who heads the Climate Branch of the Met Service.

The process is to be supported for developing countries "to prepare reports that should be submitted early next year so it can be included in the new agreement".

"This is also an important decision out of the Warsaw Conference that it will be applicable to all," the negotiator added.


The move represents a shift from provisions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which prescribed emission reductions, but only for developed countries.

However, now that emission reductions are to be applicable to all, Mahlung said there is need for at least one caveat.

"Jamaica's position on this is that there should be special considerations for SIDs like Jamaica who have very low levels of emissions, and also that these contributions and the new agreement would be legally binding and have consequences for non-compliance," he said.

Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and ethane, fuel climate change, which, together with its possible impacts, have been brought into sharp focus for many Jamaicans in recent weeks. This, as much of the island has been subject to water lock-offs, due to prevailing drought conditions.

In addition to extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, climate change impacts include warmer temperatures, sea-level rise and the associated loss of coastal and other livelihoods, as well as an increase in diseases, such as dengue.

Meanwhile, efforts to reach the critical new agreement are said to be progressing well.

"The body negotiating the new agreement - the Ad Hoc Working Group for Enhancing Actions under the Durban Platform - met in March in one of four sessions planned for this year. The expectation is that a draft negotiated text will be presented at the June sessions and that this draft text will be ready for adoption at the 20th Conference of the Parties (international climate change meeting) to be held in LIMA, Peru in December this year," Mahlung said.

The four meetings being held this year are two more than are usually held.

"The first meeting was held in Bonn, Germany - one of two additional sessions. The next additional session will be held in October at a venue to be decided. And with the two officially scheduled meetings in June in Bonn and October in Peru, gives parties four formal sessions for this year so as to ensure that a negotiated text will be ready before June next year - in keeping wit the rules of the United Nations to have a document six months before the scheduled meeting," Mahlung said.

The draft text will become the new 2015 agreement - to be inked in Paris, after being negotiated by the international community.

According to Mahlung, Jamaicans are to have a say in the country's final position on that document.

"The Climate Change Division, with the support of the Met Service, will endeavour to undertake several national consultations so as to get inputs from the relevant stakeholders," he said.

"This will enhance the positions that Jamaica will strongly support within the new agreement as developed and formulated by the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), with the strong input from our local negotiators," Mahlung explained.