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Economic woes distracting small states from climate change - expert

Published:Wednesday | July 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

New Delhi, India:

An environmental expert attached to the India-based Observer Research Foundation has expressed concern that Jamaica and other small, developing island states hit by harsh and inflexible conditionalities imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are too detached from ongoing discussions on climate change.

Vikrom Mathur did not conceal his impatience with smaller developing states such as Jamaica, which is currently engaged in a four-year extended fund facility with the IMF.

Mathur noted that the drawdown of funds from other global lending institutions are hinged on smaller countries meeting IMF conditionalities.

But with one of the worst droughts hitting the local agricultural sector, there are fears that Jamaica could be faced with challenges not envisaged at the start of the year.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips and his team have been able to meet the requirements of the IMF to the satisfaction of that body's chief, Christine Lagarde, and her team, but with the unrelenting drought throwing the agricultural sector into disarray, Jamaica will be hard put to maintain its disciplined stance.

MORE DIALOGUE NEEDED

Mathur complained that multilateral organisations have failed to appreciate the severe and drastic effects of climate change on sustainable development of small-island developing states.

"More dialogue is, therefore, needed for us to get better aligned," he stressed. "They are more vulnerable to the dictates of the global institutions."

He also urged the media in the region to enter the discussions with urgency.

"There is a need to come to agreement between the academics and other narratives of sustainable development between science and politics," he said.

Ninety-seven per cent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, with most of the leading scientific organisations worldwide issuing public statements endorsing this position.

Climate change and a deteriorating environment are regarded as key challenges to sustainability, biodiversity, food security, and stability in developing countries.

Mathur said smaller developing island states must be cognisant of the reality that climate change results in pollution, deteriorating soil quality, desertification, and poor air quality, which are threatening the lives and futures of all of the continents' people.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com