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Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity at the start of the 21st Century and failure to meet that challenge raises the spectre of unprecedented reversals in human development, says the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report of 2007/08.
The report, entitled, ‘Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world’, was launched on December 11 at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. Resident Representative of the UNDP, Minh Pham said that the report showed that the “world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable people will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks, even though they have contributed least to the problem.”
“Looking to the future, no country, however wealthy or powerful, will be immune to the impact of global warming,” he said, and called for a collaborative approach to addressing issues of climate change. “Because climate change is a global problem with global causes and effects, it demands a global response with countries acting on the basis of their historic responsibility and capabilities,” he argued.
The report provides a stark account of the threat posed by global warming, pointing out that the world is drifting towards a “tipping point” that could lock the world’s poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats and a loss of livelihoods.
Mr. Pham said that the key findings of the report showed that the impact of climate change would be borne disproportionately by the world’s poor and in some instances the impact of climate change would reverse some of the gains “we have achieved in the past. Further, the impact of climate change will affect our children and the generations to come as well.”
“Climate change is a world crisis but it is a preventable crisis and the Bali conference this week presents us with a unique and historic opportunity to address collectively our fight against climate change. One conclusion that we can draw is that doing nothing is not an option,” he asserted.
Currently all the governments of the world, including the government of Jamaica, are meeting in Bali, Indonesia to discuss the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Mr. Pham said that the aim of the Bali conference is to seek to achieve a global agreement, setting country targets for both developed and developing countries. He said the targets are 80 per cent of decreased emissions for developed countries by 2050 and 20 per cent for developing countries for the same period using 1990 as the base year.
Citing the recommendations in the report Mr. Pham said the document proposed a blend of measures that would need to be addressed at the national, regional and global levels. “It’s a twin approach between mitigating the effects of climate change and by mitigation we talk about how do we use energy now and in the future in a more efficient way and also through measures of adaptation, meaning how do we learn to live with the effects of climate change,” he said.
The second main recommendation is that of pricing the cost of carbon emissions. This, he said, is imperative “because there are social, economic and environmental costs involved with carbon emissions and through the pricing mechanisms a market can be established in which countries can trade carbon credits.”
“The world is running a serious fever because we are overloading it with carbon emissions,” Mr. Pham said.
Member of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Anthony Chen, who gave the main address at the launch, said that the government should give incentives for using renewable energy and disincentives for using electric and gas heaters. He urged Jamaicans to conserve on electricity by introducing natural lighting and solar energy sources.