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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, says Jamaica is moving quickly to identify and pursue strategies to adapt to climate change, the impact of which is already being felt in critical sectors and coastal areas.

“As Jamaicans, we are feeling the impacts of climate change. Just ask our farmers, fishermen, coastal communities, our climate specialists and our scientists,” he stated yesterday (April 17), at the press launch of Earth Day 2012 at the National Housing Trust (NHT) car park in New Kingston.

The Minister noted that while small island developing states like Jamaica have contributed relatively little to the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, these countries will unfortunately bear the brunt of the effects, and must therefore put adaptive measures in place.

The government, he said, has made climate change a national priority, establishing a Ministry to deal specifically with the issue, and has incorporated “climate-proofing” in its policies, planning processes and programmes.

Steps are being taken to ensure that climate change is included in future economic and land use planning, and to provide a framework to reduce the risks associated with natural hazards by integrating hazard considerations into development planning.

Mr. Pickersgill also cited his recent decision to establish a Climate Advisory Committee headed by Dr. Conrad Douglas, who will be working along with scientists and other professionals from academia, government ministries, departments and agencies, civil society, and non-government organisations.

The committee, he said, will “grapple with the issues and present science-based advice to allow the government to execute activities, which will place Jamaica at the forefront of climate change to become responsive and proactive.”

“We need to deepen their understanding of climate change and what will be required of us in order to build our resilience and adapt to it. It is also important that we all have access to information that is accurate, relevant and practical to individuals and to specific sectors,” he stated.

Chief Executive Officer, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight, in his remarks, noted that the challenge as the country moves forward, is how to “mobilise the Jamaican population to conserve, protect and recycle.”

He noted that this year’s Earth Day activities are a start towards the ultimate goal, insisting that the message and activities “must be sustained”.

He said the government had a responsibility to respond to the challenges presented by climate change, beginning in small ways, such as executing public education campaigns to inform the general population.

“We could make it a policy decision to include environmental education at the primary and secondary levels as we know the impressionable minds of the young,” he suggested.

Mr. Knight said that regulatory bodies must also be enabled to respond to the challenges via science-based policies and appropriate laws, regulations and guidelines.

Earth Day 2012 will be observed on April 22 under the theme: ‘Let’s Mobilise: Conserve, Protect and Recycle’. Activities this year will run from April 19 to 22 and are being spearheaded by NEPA in collaboration with the National Environmental Education Committee (NEEC)/Voices for Climate Change, in support of the European Union Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project.

 

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter