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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, has called for increased action by developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, so as to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

Addressing session of the United Nations (UN) climate change conference in Doha, Qatar on December 5, Minister Pickersgill stated that without concerted action by the large industrialized countries, climate change will continue to be a major obstacle for many small island states, including Jamaica, in achieving development goals.

He said Jamaica has been severely affected by the changes in weather patterns caused by climate change, and since 2001, the country has lost an annual average of two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) due to hurricanes, floods and droughts.  

The cumulative cost of this damage and loss, he told the conference, was close to $120 billion, “money which could have been used more effectively to improve our education, health and infrastructure sectors.”

Minister Pickersgill also pointed to the need for capital support and technology transfer to help developing countries to adapt. He noted that while Jamaica and other small island states have been attempting to strengthen their capacity, “there are some impacts that are proving to be beyond our ability to adapt”.

“I highlight this, not only because of the actual loss and damage, but also because of the impact on our debt due to borrowing in order to finance the recovery and reconstruction,” he stated.

“We must be afforded the opportunity to develop our countries without increasing emissions and ensure that our development can take a more sustainable path.  We will continue to do all that we can to conserve on our use of water and energy. But must lament the slow pace of progress in significantly reducing the cost of alternative energy sources,” the Minister stated.

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, also spoke of the “growing crisis” of climate change and said “our actions need to match the scale of the challenge."

The conference, from Monday, November 26 to Friday, December 7, represents the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto ProtocolClimate Change Conference. It is being held at the Qatar National Convention Centre.

At the G8 Summit held in the Italian city of L’aquila in July, 2009 developed countries promised to cut greenhouse gas emission by 80 per cent on the basis of 1990 levels by 2050.

So far, 75 per cent of the greenhouse gas emission comes from developed countries, with developing countries accounting for 24 per cent of the developed countries’ level. The population of G8 bloc takes up 13 per cent of global population, but half of the heat-trapping gases come from these countries. In the past 20 years, the gap of greenhouse gases emission between the developed countries and developing nations has been widening instead of narrowing.