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The issue of climate change was the hot topic for scores of students from schools across the island who participated in the 37th United Nations Model Assembly, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, today (October 22).

The students, representing various countries, debated the moot, Be it resolved that: ‘Climate change poses the most serious threat to the survival and viability of small Island Developing States, as it undermines efforts to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals’.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon Robert Pickersgill, told the students that it is imperative that they let their voices be heard on any discussions about climate change, whether at the local, regional, or international level. 

The Minister revealed that, “the total estimated cost of damage over the past eight years, from the passage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Hurricane Dean in 2007, Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008 and others, was in excess of US$1.4 billion or about J$120 billion.”

“As you can see, beyond a shadow of doubt, Climate Change is the most significant issue that will determine the future of this island in terms of its effects on physical impacts, economic activities and changes in our social interactions,” Minister Pickersgill emphasised.

“We stand to feel the effects through drought, flooding and increased storms and hurricanes. This will result in reduced agricultural productivity, food and water insecurity as well as loss of livelihoods and effects on the wider economy,” he added.

The Minister told the gathering that some low lying countries, including Small Island Developing States, such as Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, face the impact of sea level rise and increased hurricane activity, noting that some islands in the Pacific have had to relocate all their citizens due to this phenomenon.

He reported that Jamaica is amongst the first countries in the developing world to formally recognise the importance of addressing Climate Change at the national level, stating that through his Ministry, the Government is signalling its intention to focus on the problem and find the right solution.

Mr. Pickersgill encouraged the students to do their part to protect the environment and spread the word to their community leaders, friends and family about climate change and the possibility of exploring cleaner, greener sources of energy.

“This model United Nations forum is an excellent stepping stone for you to go out and make lasting changes in the way you live and how you interact with your environment, so that with our combined efforts, Jamaica will indeed become the ‘place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,” he said.

In the meantime, Resident Co-ordinator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr. Arun Kashyap, expressed his delight that Jamaica, which became a member of the UN 50 years ago, is now hosting the Model Assembly in its jubilee year.

Dr. Kashyap told the young delegates that there is enough evidence collected around the world which shows the growing impacts of climate change.   He noted that it is the children who will make a difference globally, when they start talking to the adults about messing up the environment.

“You are the ones who will be stepping into a world where the impacts of climate change will be much worse than what you are seeing today, unless we start doing something from today,” he said.

Among the schools participating were, Hillel Academy, representing Jamaica; Campion College – the United States, Westwood High – Brazil; Tacky High – Canada; Jamaica College – China; St. Hilda’s High – Dominica; The Queen’s School – Spain;

St. Hugh’s High – Trinidad and Tobago; Marcus Garvey High – Nigeria and Ardenne High – Japan. There were also several schools as observers.