Remarks by Dr Arun Kashyap at the launch of the Pre COP 21 Public Engagement Campaign by the Climate Change Division, Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change

Aug 21, 2015

  • Hon. Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change 
  • Mrs Sharon Crooks, Director General of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change
  • Mr. Albert Daley, Principal Director, Climate Change Division
  • Representatives from the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica
  • Mr. Wordsworth Gordon, President of the Jeffrey Town Farmers Association
  • Members of the Media 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

A very Good Morning to all of you.
I welcome you to the launch of the Public Engagement Campaign for the 2015 Climate Change Conference of Parties to be held in Paris later this year in December. On behalf of the UN and UNDP, I am very pleased with our partnership with the Climate Change Division, MWLECC in organizing this campaign. I am also delighted that Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and PANOS will also be collaborating in the organization of some of the subsequent events.

We have gathered here to discuss what should we be doing – wanting to accomplish in the CoP 21 meetings in Paris, and beyond Paris. COP 21 is particularly special because there appears to be strong commitment by all members of the COP to achieve a meaningful, universal climate agreement. It is with this sense that “change is in the air” that the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, last year hosted one of the largest gathering of world’ leaders from Governments, business, finance and civil society committed to act on climate change.

While the human community has learned a great deal about Earth’s climate over the last fifty years and recognized that there is no ambiguity in the message communicated to us by Science. Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is occurring now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Also as UNSG Mr. Ban Ki-Moon states, “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth are one and the same fight.” On July 20th this year, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention announced that he and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea level could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. And, if emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

And the temperature keeps rising. In fact, according to data gathered by the UN's World Meteorological Organization the first six months of 2015 were the hottest on record, both on land and in oceans.

Time therefore is not on our side, and leaders must act. And the best way to spur leaders into action is by having stakeholders and clients - including the civil society and the private sector – engaged in a participatory dialogue on a continuing basis. It is by building national ownership of integrated initiatives to act on climate change that it would be possible to enhance equitable and resilient development. And, strengthening resilience – both climate and financial - is a smart and essential investment for Jamaica and for other small island developing states.

We have few options to deal with the climate issue, viz., mitigate by reducing the pressures put on the climate through human generated emissions; adapt to the changes in environment resulting from those emissions; or suffer.

And, in words of John Holdren, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director, the tradeoffs are what combination of emission reduction, adaptation, and suffering we’re going choose because irrespective of the quanta of emissions reduced much climate change is going to occur. And, adaptation to climate change is the most under-invested subject today in both research and institution building. And, as we know the vulnerable communities and small island developing states will suffer from the adverse impacts of climate change given that there will be consequences that cannot be prevented or adapted to.

It is essential to ensure that our strategy to deal with climate change includes a viable “insurance policy” to help those who are in economic conditions or in sectors of work that suffer disproportionate harm. In the negotiators’ language it is called decision on dealing with loss and damage to pay for the benefits the rest of us have already received and are receiving from the reckless release of GHGs gases to the atmosphere.

The gravity of climate change as a development issue that threatens to undermine global, national and local efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace keeping is reflected by the fact that Pope Francis has issued an encyclical (Laudato Si, or Praised Be) focused on the environmental stewardship and, in particular the effects of climate change on human life. He makes a strong case that humans are at fault for the degradation of the environment and that major part of global warming in recent decades is due to high concentration of greenhouse gas emitted above all because of human activity. And he has recruited Naomi Klein, the world’s most high profile social activist and a fierce critic of 21st century capitalism to shift the debate on climate change. Activists and religious leaders gathered in Rome in June this year and marched through the Eternal City before the Vatican welcomed campaigners to the conference focusing on UN’s approaching climate change summit.

A 2013 University of Hawaii study notes that the tropics will face the effects of rising temperatures first, beginning in the next 7 years. Specifically, the study notes that Kingston, Jamaica will be the second city globally to reach the tipping point of a new climate by 2023.

The global community must take action to ensure that the world is on track to confirm the new agreement in COP21 in Paris. Accordingly, UNDP is calling for governments to commit to a new universal climate change agreement to ensure that action is taken at the global and national levels. For developing countries like Jamaica, such an agreement is vital to ensure that ambitious action takes place to reduce the emissions that are threatening their very existence, and to support them in adapting to the changes they are already seeing.

We are closely collaborating with the Climate Change Division to share information about the Paris Climate Conference and Jamaica’s position with Jamaicans to get their feedback for sharing at the COP in Paris. Climate change affects every single citizen and as such every citizen should know what is at stake in Paris this December.

To ensure that your voices are heard in Paris, we have decided to support the Jeffrey Town Farmers Association’s request to attend COP 21 and share its work-that is its creditable community driven, participatory development approach that has engendered social change which is also sustainable. We are very proud of their achievements including their winning the prestigious Equator Prize last year and would like to ensure that their experience is widely shared.

UN and UNDP Jamaica look forward to working with the Climate Change Division and Jamaicans on this campaign as we anticipate a successful journey to Paris and beyond, for Jamaica and for our planet. Thank you.

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