Jamaica and the United States: Partners combating climate change
As we hear about receding shorelines, bleaching of coral reefs, more severe weather systems, and excessive flooding and droughts around the world, it is apparent that climate change is impacting our lives.
As a global society, we are at a critical juncture where our decisions today will help shape the climate future generations will experience.
But this is not just about the future. There are immediate
benefits to keeping pollutants out of our environment - cleaner air, lower energy costs, and new growth industries that can benefit the United States and Jamaica alike.
These are the stakes at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris, France, where representatives from almost 200 nations will gather from November 30 to December 11 to negotiate a comprehensive climate agreement for the post-2020 world.
Now more than ever, there is social and political will to do something about the rise in global temperatures and its ripple effect through the environment.
More than 160 countries, responsible for around 90 per cent of global emissions, have announced climate targets ahead of the conference.
Both at home and abroad, the United States is leading an ever-expanding suite of measures to combat the effects of climate change. President Obama's Climate Action Plan includes unprecedented efforts to reduce carbon pollution, promote clean sources of energy, and protect communities from the impacts of climate change.
Environmental experts say developing countries in the Caribbean are among the economies most vulnerable to climate change.
The United States Government is partnering with Jamaica and other islands in the region to improve their resilience.
The Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change (MWLECC) and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM) have been working assiduously with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to mitigate the negative impacts that the country experiences from climate change.
This partnership is critical if we are to realise significant change for this generation as well as the next.
Since 2012, USAID has funded the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change project with approximately US$10 million over the past four years.
Through this project, we have worked primarily with farmers, community groups and youth to reduce the impact of drought, floods and storms.
Together we have designed a drought-prediction tool in partnership with the Government of Jamaica's Meteorological Service and Columbia University.
Additionally, we have renovated water, catchment facilities for farmers and installed conservation measures such as drip irrigation.
We have also supported Jamaica's ability to conduct an analysis of its energy sector in the submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Throughout the process, we have worked closely with MWLECC and MSTEM. This process highlights many opportunities for Jamaica to achieve its policy goals, improve coordination, and institutionalise energy sector climate modelling and data collection.
This partnership will assist the Government of Jamaica meet its Vision 2030 target of 20 per cent renewable sources for overall energy use and 30 per cent renewables for electricity generation.
Under the framework of the White House's Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, the US Government has deepened its commitment to helping Jamaica achieve clean, reliable, and affordable energy.
As one example, USAID is working with the Government of Jamaica and the private sector on a new integrated Clean Energy Program to establish the preconditions for clean energy development, optimise renewable energy integration, and accelerate private-sector clean energy investment.
During his visit to Jamaica in April 2015, President Obama announced the Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central American.
This $20-million facility will provide early-stage funding to catalyse greater private and public sector investment in clean energy projects. It will draw on the expertise of the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the US Trade and Development Agency in coordination with USAID and the Department of State.
In Jamaica, American companies are already making renewable energy investments. BMR Energy is building a 36-megawatt wind farm in St Elizabeth and WRB Enterprises is building a 20-megawatt solar farm in Clarendon.
These projects both received OPIC financing and together represent US$150 million in total investment. OPIC is actively looking for more such opportunities to support solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects in Jamaica and throughout the broader Caribbean region.
The tourism industry is the largest energy user in the Caribbean. The US Department of Energy, through its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OPIC, is undertaking the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewables initiative, which supports projects to improve energy and water efficiency as well as the exchange of best practices for electricity conservation in the hotel and tourism industry.
USAID is launching a complementary project focused on the Eastern Caribbean that will develop new financing tools for energy efficiency and renewables.
We applaud the Government and people of Jamaican for maintaining a robust programme of cooperation in this area.
This partnership strengthens our bilateral relationship, enhances economic growth, and promotes the development of new and innovative technologies and products to address our shared challenges.
We recognise that Jamaica is a strong supporter of action on climate change. As we prepare for COP 21, it is our hope that all countries, including developing economies, support ambitious efforts at home and work together to reach an inclusive international agreement.
- Luis G. Moreno is the United States ambassador to Jamaica. Feedback: email@example.com