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Jamaica, and some 42 other small island developing states, which are deemed most vulnerable to climate change, have put together a new instrument to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The new proposal being done in partnership with several international organisations, is being negotiated with developed countries for adoption in December of this year, says Jamaica’s Climate Change Chief Negotiator, Clifford Mahlung.
He explains that one of the main features of the new instrument, which involves collaboration among Caribbean, Pacific, Indian and African nations, is more stringent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Mahlung, who is also head of Data Processing at the Meteorological Service, tells JIS News that while emissions from all small island developing states combined, contribute less than one per cent of the global total, these countries are at greatest risk from climate change.
They are pushing for a 45 per cent reduction of 1990 levels by 2012, and 95 per cent by 2050. “This is the only way that they can assure that the expected increases in temperature (from climate change)…will not result in significant damage or loss of any island,” he points out.
The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the international agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It commits the developed countries, which have ratified it, to a combined reduction of about six per cent of their 1990 levels of emissions, with the target to be achieved during the commitment period 2008-2012.
As of January 14, 2009, 183 parties have ratified the protocol, which was initially adopted for use on December 11, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and which entered into force on February 16, 2005.
A number of experts have argued that the treaty is flawed, in terms of its approach to climate change issues and has failed to slow greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, emissions have increased 35 per cent since 1990, while no major industrial power has managed to cut its greenhouse gas output.
Small island developing states are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise, changes in rainfall pattern and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather systems including droughts, floods, storms and hurricanes.
Jamaica’s own vulnerability to climate change is documented in the assessments that were prepared for the Second National Communication of Jamaica, a project funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and executed by the Meteorological Service, the focal point to the UNFCCC.
Jamaica and other small islands, have prepared country reports, which will be incorporated in a document to be submitted by Grenada at a climate change meeting scheduled for Bonn, Germany, from June 1-12. Grenada is the current Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, the negotiating group for these islands.
However, while Jamaica participates wholly in negotiations and makes recommendations to address the possible impacts of climate change, Mr. Mahlung outlines that more needs to be done locally to assist in making the earth cleaner, especially increasing the awareness of climate change to the populace.
“We (Jamaica) need to do a lot more, and now that the whole world is aware that climate change is an issue that must be addressed, it is timely to start planning to use more renewable sources of energy, promote energy efficiency, switching to less carbon intensive fuels and capturing methane from our landfills,” he says.
Jamaica’s energy consumption for the period 1990-2006 stood at some 385.5 million barrels at a cost of some $750 billion. Over the 16-year period, consumption moved from 17.8 million barrels to 29. 2 million barrels and in 2007, Jamaica spent in excess of US$2 billion on energy consumption.
Mr. Mahlung, however, highlights that the country’s drive for investing in renewable sources of energy is commendable. Investments have been made in a windfarm, owned by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), and the promotion of the use of bio-fuels in particular E-10 gasolene.
Group Managing Director of the PCJ, Dr. Ruth Potopsingh, tells JIS News that the trading of carbon credits through the windfarm in Manchester, dubbed Wigton, is progressively well.
Dr. Potopsingh explains that some 44,000 tons of carbon credit are sold annually under an eight-year agreement, which ends in about three years. She notes that the agreement provides Jamaica with approximately US$2.52 million.
The Group Managing Director informs further that plans are afoot to expand the windfarm by mid-2010. “Jamaica has to take the opportunity to maximise its potential from carbon trading,” she states.
On the subject of the E-10 petrol programme, launched last November, Petrojam is currently making the necessary infrastructural modifications to its refinery, to improve the production and delivery of the ethanol blend to supply a growing demand. Presently, E-10 petrol is sold at the pumps at $2 less than the cost of 87 octane gasolene.
About four ethanol skids will be installed at Petrojam, one per loading bay, to facilitate the blending of E-10 in both 87 and 90 octane.
All these efforts may, however, amount of naught, if large developing countries do not sign on to the new instrument to further reduce emissions. Mr. Mahlung says that developed states are willing to take meaningful cuts but they must also provide some of the technologies for reductions as well as assist the development of similar technologies in the developing countries.
The agenda for action on climate change must also embrace the specific goals of creating healthy, productive, biologically diverse co-ecosystems; sustainable management and utilisation of natural resources; effective, efficient and accountable governance framework for environment and natural resources management; and a culture of hazard risk reduction.
Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect, which is the process by which the emission of infrared radiation (heat) by the atmosphere warms the planet’s surface. Greenhouse gases come from natural sources and human activity and consist of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
It has been found that the earth was warmed by 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past Century. The World Energy Outlook predicts that carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 63 per cent over 2002 levels by the year 2030.
It has been revealed that human activity has increased the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by some 30 per cent over pre-industrial levels, a development which, according to the 2006 Human Development Report published by the UNDP, will have “momentous consequences in the 21st Century and beyond.”
Jamaica has already seen the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, with sea level rise causing storm surges in areas such as Portland Cottage and Rocky Point in Clarendon.

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