JIS News

Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, has said that the country was very much affected by global warming, and like other small island states, was three times more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate changes.
“Perhaps the most serious environmental challenge facing us as a result of global climate change is sea level rise as well as escalation in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and disruptions in precipitation and fresh water supply,” Dr. Robertson told participants at a conference in Winnipeg, Canada, recently.
The Minister was representing Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at the conference, which was held from March 19 to 22 under the theme: ‘Communities and the Impact of Climate Change’.
Sponsored by the Canadian development organization, CUSO, the conference was aimed at bringing together citizens and leaders from communities in Canada’s Arctic and rural areas and the global South, to share their knowledge and experience on the impact which climate change was having on their communities and their lives.
Dr. Robertson told approximately 200 delegates, that eroded coastlines placed Jamaica’s coastal infrastructure and submerged coastal wetlands at greater risk of flooding during storms.
He noted that Jamaica’s vulnerability was even more pronounced because two of the island’s main economic activities – tourism and agriculture – were dependent on natural resources that are threatened by adverse weather conditions, describing this as “frightening indeed”, since 90 per cent of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was produced within the coastal zone.
“Heavy rains in the period between December 2000 and January 2001 resulted in damage to roads, bridges and river courses, estimated at US$25 million. Floodings and droughts have also resulted in an estimated J$2 billion in crop damage between 1999 and 2002,” the Minister said.
Dr. Robertson shared with participants some of the new phenomena in weather patterns being experienced in the Caribbean, such as the four warmest years on record since 1860 have all occurred since 1990; Hurricane Lenny in 1999 approached the Caribbean from the West and affected every country in the region in some way; and tropical storms are now occurring in May and December outside of the hurricane season of June to November.
The Minister underscored Jamaica’s commitment to several international agreements which have implications for climate change, such as Agenda 21, the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The conference, which included exhibits by several government and non-governmental organisations and community groups, also had presentations from Canada’s Minister of the Environment, David Anderson; Manitoba’s Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Tim Sale; and Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine.
Also attending the conference from Jamaica was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), Dr. Hopeton Dunn, who is CUSO’s Caribbean representative on its Board of Directors.
While in Canada, Dr. Robertson, accompanied by Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, Vivia Betton, paid a visit to Ontario’s Legislative Assembly. He was invited by the Jamaican-born Speaker of the House, Alvin Curling.

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