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(Dr. Arun Kashyap, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Jamaica (left) presenting the Human Development Report 2011 to Minister with portfolio responsibility for the environment Dr. Horace Chang. The Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica. Friday, December 16, 2011. Carol Narcisse/UNDP Jamaica)
The Human Development Report 2011, with its theme of Sustainability and Equity - A Better Future for All, provided a fitting overarching framework for discussions of Jamaica's State of the Environment Report 2010. Published by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) with support from UNDP, the report was highly anticipated as the last State of the Environment Report was published in 2001.
The joint launch of the two reports provided an opportunity for assessment of the global and national situation with respect to sustainability and equity. The publications are timely as Jamaica and several other State Parties participated in the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, and are preparing to participate in Rio+20 - the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.
Speaking at the launch, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Arun Kashyap spoke to "the great development challenge of this century" namely to safeguard the future of the planet and the right of current and future generations everywhere to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Dr. Kashyap underscored the need to factor issues of equity in any examination of the state of the environment, saying "the dependence upon natural resources is fundamental for the poor and the disadvantaged who carry a double burden of deprivation." He said further, that the poor and disadvantaged are most vulnerable to the wider effects of environmental degradation because with fewer coping tools they are subjected to more severe physical and social shocks and stresses... and face unequalizing effects of extreme weather events. Against that background, Dr. Kashyap said that the main message of the 2011 Human Development Report was that "Promoting human development ...requires addressing sustainability... in a manner that is equitable and empowering."
In giving an overview of the main messages and findings of the 2011 HDR, Ms. Akiko Fujii, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP, pointed to the importance of integrating equity into the design, implementation & monitoring of policies.
Chief Executive Officer of NEPA, Mr. Peter Knight, in commenting on the State of the Environment Report said that while there had been some improvement in environmental management in Jamaica he was not satisfied with a number of the current trends indicated in the report including deteriorating air and water quality, poor management of solid, liquid and hazardous waste, loss of biodiversity, watershed degradation, and net loss of forest cover.
Minister of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, Dr. Horace Chang, cited several areas of focus of the government including climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as the management of hazardous chemicals and solid waste.
Acting Director, of Planning, Policy, Evaluation and Research at NEPA, Mr. Anthony McKenzie, outlined the details of the findings of the State of the Environment Report. The findings showed that watersheds continue to be affected by poor agricultural practices, improper land use, Illegal logging and the impact of storm events. With respect to coastal resources, the major pressures are identified as land based pollution, development activities, over fishing, hurricanes, storms and climate change. Among the worrying trends are the percentage of live coral cover on reefs which was approximately 50% in 1960, decreasing to 5% in the 1990s, and with current live coral cover estimated as between 10-15 %. Though improved, this is one area which negatively impacts fisheries and other livelihoods, as well as natural disaster defense.
The impact of environmental degradation on lives and livelihoods was expanded on by Environmental Scientists, Dr. Barry Wade and Prof. Elizabeth Thomas-Hope, and Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson.
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