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Climate change puts heritage sites in danger, says Grange

Published:Tuesday | May 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi Ann Gilpin
Giddy House in Port Royal, a popular heritage site in Jamaica.

THE RECOGNITION of the threat posed to heritage sites in Jamaica has been brought into sharp focus, as the Government, in addition to various stakeholders, attempts to find more sustainable ways to combat climate change.

Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, speaking at the World Heritage and Climate Change Symposium that was held yesterday, said that the ministry was cognisant of the fact that climate change is an integral aspect of the developmental discourse.

“Culture and heritage have not been afforded a large space in the climate change discourse. It certainly has not had prominence in research and policy. For those who have engaged in the research, such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and the Union of Concerned Scientists, we are getting a true sense of the extensive impact of climate change on heritage,” she said.

“UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Union of Concerned Scientists released a recent report which identifies 31 natural and cultural world heritage sites, across 29 countries, that are vulnerable to a range of climate change-related impacts. We (Jamaica) are aware because we have an underwater (Port Royal) city that is also threatened,” she said.

Grange added, “The issue of climate change becomes even more disturbing for small island developing states when the effects begin to impact on our economic welfare. It is even more detrimental for us in the Caribbean, because these occurrences are taking place almost in unison with the Caribbean’s growing presence in heritage status. Therefore, we must pay attention to sites in our communities and towns in Jamaica.”

Chairman of the Culture Advisory Committee and Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, Laleta Davis Mattis, expressed similar sentiments, noting that the devastating impacts are becoming more evident. “In this context of global climate change, there is mounting evidence that the conservation of World Heritage Sites, both natural and cultural, may be jeopardised,” she said.

“Terrestrial biodiversity may also be affected with species shifting ranges, changes in the timing of biological cycles, modification of the frequency and intensity of wildfires, migration of pests and invasive species. World heritage sites are also exposed to this threat,” Davis Mattis said.