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Speech

Building a Climate Resilient and Sustainable Future

As a small island developing state, Jamaica is acutely aware of how the risks of climate change threaten the development, the well being and economic-security of its citizens. Over the years, we note with grave concern the impact we experience from extreme events of hurricanes, drought and flooding to the slower onset events of sea level rise, warming seas and loss of ecosystems. Year after year, the effects of climate change are amplified which puts us at even greater economic and physical risk.

This Earth Day celebration under the theme “Climate Action” comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated our social and economic issues and also threatens our capacity to respond to climate-related disasters. Climate change will not stop because of the emergence of other crises and disruptions; and focusing on the agile response and management of one crisis should not mean we slow down the urgent response to the other.

The economic measures to help us recover from the pandemic can go in hand with building climate resilience and long term sustainability. This strengthens the case for a response to all types of hazards and for systems that foster resilience. We must focus equally on the rebuilding of our economy while protecting the environment for the benefit of all our people.

In this period of COVID-19, we have had to make significant adjustments to our lifestyles and our livelihoods. In like manner, we must consider the lessons from this new paradigm and apply it to tackling climate change. It demands the same commitment from all of us to guarantee the future we want. We all need to embrace the change if we are to realize the transformation necessary for a climate resilient and low carbon society.

We must all answer the call to Climate Action. The Government is leading the­charge and remains committed to making its contribution, even as the world moves to address the challenges of COVID-19. Jamaica is taking steps to increase its ambition by moving towards an economy wide targeted approach to reducing carbon emissions. This is articulated in our enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution {NOC) under the Paris Agreement which is currently being refined and finalized for Cabinet approval. This NOC makes clear our intention to grow economically without increasing environmental pressure.

This 50th anniversary of Earth Day comes at a time when Jamaica is celebrating 25 years of climate action as a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. There is perhaps no better time for responding to the call for Climate Action by all Jamaicans. The Government alone cannot do it! As we learn how to change the way we socialize during the pandemic, let us also be mindful of our carbon and environmental footprint. When the “new era” has emerged, let us also be better positioned to be greener in our operations, more aware of the environment and better armed with the tools to rebuild and thrive.

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