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Jamaica prepares for battle in UN climate talks

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
MAHLUNG ... if countries don't make significant reductions in emissions, then we cannot be a part of it.

Petre Williams-Raynor

FACED WITH the threat of water and food insecurity, compromised human health and extreme weather events associated with climate change, Jamaica appears ready to do battle for legally binding commitments to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts from world leaders.

And they are not alone. Other CARICOM countries and small-island developing states (SIDS) - themselves counted among the most vulnerable to climate change, which is fuelled by emissions of GHGs, such as carbon dioxide and methane - look to be in on the action.

"If countries don't make significant reductions in emissions, then we cannot be a part of it (a new international agreement on climate change). That is how serious we are," said Clifford Mahlung, capacity building coordinator for the Alliance of Small Island Sates (AOSIS) and former lead negotiator for Jamaica.

He was speaking at a workshop for journalists, put on by Panos Caribbean and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung organisation last week Wednesday, ahead of Jamaica's national climate change consultations, held last Thursday.

Caribbean influence

CARICOM countries form part of the 44-member AOSIS. Together, they account for some 20 per cent of membership to the United Nations, 28 per cent of developing countries and five per cent of the global population, making them a force with which to contend at climate negotiations.

Later this month, CARICOM is to meet to strategise around the upcoming climate talks to be held in Lima, Peru, that are intended to advance work towards the new international agreement on climate change to be signed in Paris next year.

"The upcoming meeting of ministers and negotiators is to bring more clarity to the issues that will have to be addressed in the agreement and basically to understand the views of other negotiating blocs and how we can meet them along some continuum that will enable us to reach an agreement," head of Jamaica's Climate Change Division, Albert Daley, told The Gleaner.

"Negotiators [will also have the opportunity] to get clear on the issues and components we should be gunning for in the agreement and to understand what should be our 'red line' - things we should not give up on - and the things we should negotiate around," he added.

The value of such a meeting was noted by head of the CARICOM Taskforce on Sustainable Development, James Fletcher, at the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Conference in the Bahamas last month.

At the time, Fletcher - also St Lucia's minister of sustainable development, energy, science, and technology - said he anticipated no challenges to CARICOM realising, at this month's meeting, consensus on the issues of importance to members.

In addition to binding emission cuts, he highlighted a number of other things - all of which reflect Jamaica's priorities - on which they would like movement in Lima.

Region can't wait

"We want to see more action on loss and damage, which is something that is very important to us. We [also] want to see concrete movement on climate financing. We have always said that we are living on the front line of climate change and we can't afford to wait for the international community to get those various mechanisms in place for us to get financing," Fletcher said.

Meanwhile, he indicated that their efforts would be aided by the Caribbean demonstrating leadership and making good use of lobbying.

"We do not just operate as Caribbean SIDS, we also operate under the umbrella of AOSIS and we negotiate as G77, a much wider group that also includes the African countries. So I think what we have to do is to demonstrate leadership, continue to articulate our serious concerns and, operating at the various negotiating levels, get the international community to understand the urgency of our situation," he reasoned.

On lobbying, Fletcher said: "We have to do it at the level of our permanent representatives at the UN.

"So we give them the mandate to have discussions with their counterparts from the developed countries and in all negotiating fora that we find ourselves in, to cause that discussion to start so that by the time you get to Lima, you are not operating from ground zero," he explained.