Climate Change Adaptation a Priority for Jamaica - Posted November 23, 2007


Commonwealth countries, especially those that are small island developing states (SIDS) like Jamaica must lead in the development of strategies for adaptation to Global Climate Change (GCC). This was the main message brought out by the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Dr. Mark Collins at the National Climate Change Forum for Civil Society on November 8 and 9, 2007.


The forum was the first of its kind in Jamaica and, combined with the Public Lecture on Climate Change, the fora drew participation from over 200 persons including ministers of government, distinguished scholars, top level government technocrats, influential donor agency representatives, NGO and CBO representatives and members of the general public; some of who made significant presentations in providing the facts for action. The forum, titled “Getting the facts so we can act!” was put on by the National Environmental Education Committee (NEEC) and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) with funding from the Commonwealth Foundation.


The main aim of the forum was to provide valuable information about GCC, facilitate dialogue and provide an opportunity for civil society to become apart of the national machinery that must develop strategies for mitigation and adaptation to Climate Change. A draft framework for action was developed and is being fine tuned to be presented to relevant authority.


Climate Change is not a theory but a reality. Various models developed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have assessed different possible scenarios and one thing is certain; warming is taking place as a result of exponential increase of human induced carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; the results – sea level rise is a given, vector born diseases will increase because temperature rise will facilitate parasitic development, corals reefs will dye from bleaching. Impacts will affect fresh water resources, biodiversity, human settlement and food security. These inevitable impacts will have effects on the economies of SIDS. Many of these points were brought out by Professor Chen in his keynote address at the forum. Professor Chen is also a member of the IPCC who along with other members of the panel, shares the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore. Professor Chen noted that while Jamaica’s footprint is faint as a contributor to carbon emissions and global warming, GCC will affect the island in a great way. He cautioned us (Jamaica) to be aware of the ‘delicate’ threshold and ‘tipping’ points that can cause irreversible damage.


Mrs. Emanuel from PIOJ alluded to the findings by pointing out that climate change is a cross cutting planning issue and noted that issues and ideas brought out in the forum must be presented to the National 2030 Plan task force team. This is especially in light of the vulnerability of sectors like tourism, the fastest growing industry that incidentally operates entirely along the coastal zone. The issue of tourism and climate change is like a “double edged sword with backward and forward linkages. This serious implication was brought out by Karen Ford Warner who heads the TPDCO and has the challenge of finding the right balance between sustainable tourism as is described in the Tourism Master Plan such as seeking alternative markets, diversifying the tourism product to support more ecologically and greener tourism while providing for the ‘Mega’ sized tourist resorts that require large labour force and far more technological resources that ironically contribute to GCC.


Civil society is concerned that the gaps that exist between ‘plans and policy’ and implementation are too wide. Human settlements and ‘tourism development’ continue to abound in flood prone areas and ecologically vulnerable areas such as wetlands. They voiced their opinions in the question and answer period and the above mentioned issue was one of common concerns among many of the attendees.


Other presenters contributed information about GCC and its impacts on health, biodiversity, coastline, human settlement and the built environment. It was Dr. Michael Witter however who gave a comprehensive overview of the scenario and stressed that sustainable development must be integral to adaptation.


A sample of one communication strategy, a theme song for climate change “I don’t wanna wash away” was performed live at the forum. The song was written by Marolyn Lucy Gentles in response to the need to get information about climate change to ordinary Jamaicans.


Climate Change is no longer a fiction about The Day After Tomorrow but is actually here today. We need to get the facts so we can act!


For further information:

Marolyn Lucy Gentles


National Environmental Education Committee


Tel: 970-0670 or 460-6099



Gina Sanguinetti Phillips

Vice Chairperson

National Environmental Education Committee


Tel: 754-7540