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Countdown to COP21: Caribbean climate change campaign gets Jamaican endorsement

Published:Tuesday | November 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Mahlung: The campaign being run in the region is about ... whether we will have a future, as small islands, anywhere in this world.
Khan: Anything that will help to raise awareness of the importance of what is happening is appreciated.

With less than a month to go before the start of what is likely to be final negotiations for a new international climate deal, Jamaican officials have given the thumbs up to the '1.5 To Stay Alive' campaign being rolled out in the Caribbean.

"The campaign being run in the region is about survival, life or death. It is about whether we will have a future, as small islands, anywhere in this world," said Clifford Mahlung, meteorologist and one of Jamaica's most seasoned international climate negotiators.

'1.5 To Stay Alive' seeks to raise awareness, build momentum, and enhance popular support for the Caribbean's negotiating positions in the lead-up to, and during, the talks at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which gets under way in Paris, beginning the end of this month and into December.

Critically, it supports the region's call for global temperatures to be contained at 1.5 degrees Celcius, given the negative climate-change impacts should world leaders fail to drastically cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

The concerns of small-island states, including Jamaica, is that temperature changes so far have just been about one degree Celcius.

"Such a change is producing the types of tropical cyclones we have been experiencing in the last few years, where a few weeks ago in Mexico, the most powerful storm ever was created," explained Mahlung.

"We have also seen the Pacific experience several of these super typhoons ... . All of these are the result of the increase in temperatures that is providing more available moisture and energy, kinetic energy, that are the ingredients for the formation and intensification of a tropical cyclone. It is frightening when we live in an area of the hurricane belt where we know it is not if, but when, one of these super typhoons will affect us," he added.


Corrective action


The implication, the meteorologist said, is that an entire island could be "totally devastated with large numbers of deaths by one of these systems".

"We have to insist that the temperature increase up to 2100 is kept as close to 1.5 degrees Celcius as possible and the experts tell us that achieving that increase is very much possible. But the more we delay taking corrective action, it is the more difficult it will become to achieve this threshold," Mahlung said.

"What we are saying is that it is not only what will happen in the islands, but it is the fact that we will soon have climate migrants flooding to the larger cities up north, similar to what we you see now in Europe - similar to the devastation caused by war."

Mahlung said it was frightening that such a future could face "our children and our grandchildren", and that the only way to prevent such an occurrence would be to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the overall temperature increase well below 1.5 degrees Celcius.

Chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, Colonel Oral Khan, is of a similar mind.

According to Khan, given what is at stake for the region, the campaign was welcomed.

"Anything that will help to raise awareness of the importance of what is happening is appreciated," he told The Gleaner.

"We are going to the [talks] and we are going to be communicating our position in terms of our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (to greenhouse-gas emissions reduction globally) and we are pushing for emissions reduction to no more than 1.5 degrees Celcius increase. Any help we can get in building the awareness of the significance of what faces us and the knowledge about how we can responsibly to do our part, anything that supports that, we will support," he added.