Salutations: This year, the UN-declared International Year of Biodiversity, is a time to take stock of the progress we have made and to evaluate how much further we have to go in our efforts at ensuring environmental sustainability.
Ensuring environmental sustainability is the 7th of the 8 United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
At the last check, Jamaica was reported as “making good progress in eight out of the 14 [Millennium Development Goal] targets for 2015.” Indeed, Jamaica has already achieved its targets for reduction in absolute poverty, malnutrition, hunger and universal primary enrolment. Jamaica was on track for combating HIV/AIDS, halting and reversing the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis and access to reproductive health.
Regarding the important 7th Millennium Development Goal – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability, Jamaica had mixed reviews.
Jamaica was on target for providing safe drinking water and basic sanitation for its citizens. Access to water has improved – 92% of Jamaicans now has access to safe drinking water. The country continues to confront the challenge of solid waste management and hygiene and it was reported that 98.9% of Jamaicans has access to basic sanitation.
However, Jamaica was reported to be lagging behind in some key targets towards ensuring environmental sustainability, such as integrating the principles of sustainable development into national policies & programmes and reversing the loss of environmental resources.
Jamaica also lagged behind in its target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by this year despite our efforts.
Reversing biodiversity loss has proven to be challenging in the short term for Jamaica as a small island developing state that has traditionally depended on its rich environmental resources for the development of two of its main foreign exchange earners tourism and bauxite.
But I want to make it clear today: Jamaica remains committed to achieving its targets for the Millennium Development Goals. Ensuring environmental sustainability is a priority. And this event today, and the activities that will follow across the country, are a demonstration of Jamaica’s commitment to redouble our efforts, to make up lost ground, and to accelerate the process of ensuring environmental sustainability.
In this country which has so many physical treasures, the environment matters. And we are enlisting the support of another of our treasures, our youth, to help reverse the loss of environmental resources and to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.
The fact is, we will not survive without the diversity of life that exists in this country and on this planet. We depend on it for food, shelter, medicine and earning. Over time, as humans, we have not shown adequate respect for our environment and human action has resulted in the reduction of biodiversity at an accelerated rate. This reduction of the biodiversity has been blamed for extreme weather conditions and other natural disasters that have affected communities in recent times.
Jamaica must be prepared and take the appropriate steps in the face of climate change. This matters to us because of our country’s high vulnerability to hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes. The World Bank rates Jamaica at number 3 out of 75 countries in its ranking of natural disaster hotspots.
We have seen the effect that adverse weather and other major events have had on our lives and communities. In the country report on the Millennium Development Goals that was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Planning Institute of Jamaica in 2009, it was estimated that between 2004 and 2008, five major events caused damage and losses at US$1.2B in this country. It was also reported that the outbreaks of dengue and leptospirosis experienced in 2007 were largely influenced by weather conditions.
So what we need ladies and gentlemen, is a new deal and a new respect for biodiversity. Let us begin now.
On May 22, we will be observing International Day of Biodiversity. To mark the occasion, and as a sign of our commitment to conserving biodiversity, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture through the National Centre for Youth Development, in association with UNESCO, the Forestry Department and the National Environment and Planning Authority will be hosting a Tree Planting Activity at Hope River Watershed on May 22 and 23.
This will be the start of a national programme of biodiversity conservation that will target the youth. Senator Newby will provide details of the programme in his presentation.
But let me say, that we aim to change old mindsets towards the environment. We will work with the youth to ensure that succeeding generations have full respect for biodiversity and that conservation will become a way of life of all Jamaicans.
Biodiversity matters. And we commit to redouble our efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss in Jamaica.
Thank you. God bless you.

Skip to content